For the first time since participating in the Seoul Games in 1988, Chris travelled back to Korea to give the keynote speech at the 2014 Inclusive Sport and Society Forum. The Forum was organised by the Korean Paralympic Committee just ahead of the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games and was attended by UN Special Advisor on Sport, Wilfried Lemke, and International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven. Themes developed at the conference were the integration of disabled and non-disabled sports and social inclusion through sports.
Chris was invited to speak at the Gala Dinner marking the International Paralympic Committee’s 25th Anniversary. The Gala Dinner, in Berlin, was the highlight of a three-day event celebrating 25 years so far, and discussing the future strategic direction of the Paralympic Movement. One of the highlights of the evening was when Chris learnt that the London 2012 Paralympic Games had come top of the list of 25 greatest ever Paralympic Sport Moments.
At this year’s Conservative Party Conference Chris spoke at events organised by Demos and the Work Foundation. Both events covered a subject he cares passionately about; creating employment opportunities and giving people a chance for a better future. Although unemployment figures are at a record low employment prospects for many young people and disabled people remain a particular struggle.
Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to be lacking but wanting work. The government now has an important opportunity to look at new ways to improve employment outcomes for disabled people. “Living with Disability: Improving employment outcomes” was run by Demos and launched a fascinating collection of essays titled “How far we’ve travelled and how far we have to go….”.
Chris also took part in a panel discussion organised by the Work Foundation and chaired by Fraser Nelson. It asked the question; what would constitute a good youth labour market? ‘More Than a Job’ – Creating Career Opportunities for Young People.
On September 10th Lord Holmes joined Helen Grant, Minister for Sport, to launch a new Premiership Rugby programme that aims to get more women and ethnic minorities involved in rugby. An EHRC grant of £600000 will be used to get 700 women and girls into the sport, train up 480 coaches and involve 2500 participants. Chris sees this new initiative as a key part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy and a powerful way to close the gender gap in a sport in which women and ethnic minorities are particularly underrepresented. Read more about the project in the articles below:
‘Premiership Rugby receives 600000 grant to increase the number of women in the sport’ Telegraph, 10th September 2014
Lord Holmes and Premiership Rugby look to continue London 2012 Legacy, Premiership Rugby Website
This summer the Equalities and Human Rights Commission have published a handy passport sized guide to your rights when you fly as a disabled traveller. Due to a legal loophole the rights we citizens enjoy on the ground in UK and EU countries are replaced by an outdated agreement known as the Montreal Convention when we board a plane. What this means for disabled travellers is that should anything go wrong in the air, or indeed airside when you have cleared check in, you will not be protected by the rights enshrined in domestic equality legislation. The passport guide has been produced to help travellers know what rights they do have and what measures they can take to make sure they have the smoothest journey possible. Read Chris’s blog on the subject..
Earlier this month South West Trains told passenger groups it was suspending the audio announcements of train information at Waterloo Station for a two-week trial. This was a particularly strange decision given that just two years ago they had spent almost £3million on a new 90-decibel system, comprising 1,000 speakers, which it said would deliver “better and clearer” information.
Suspending audio announcements would have had a devastating impact on blind and visually impaired train users, not to mention thousands of others who benefit from this service. It would have forced people to seek out assistance from information points and made it much harder to be independent. It was a terrible idea, the RNIB campaigned against it and Caroline Pidgeon from the London Assembly described it as “one of the most absurd decisions by a train company I have ever come across”.
The positive news, however, is that South West Trains listened to the outcry and changed their minds. I am pleased to report that audio announcements will remain at Waterloo. If this is an optimistic tale of people power then it is also a reminder that we should never assume that anything, no matter how sensible and seemingly beyond question is necessarily forever. It is down to us, as communities and individuals to ensure that better is the benchmark and never let anything simply slip away.
At a time when much is written about voter apathy and community disengagement it’s good to be reminded that people do care and actions can change things.
As a relatively new member of the House of Lords I was delighted to be appointed to the Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills. Unlike select committees in the House of Commons, which are generally responsible for overseeing the work of government departments and agencies, those of the Lords look at general issues. They can be permanent, or, like this one on Digital Skills, ad hoc. We will report by March next year.
This select committee has been formed to look at the UKs digital landscape and particularly competitiveness and skills. It is a timely and important investigation. The UK is at the forefront of digital skills in Europe but the digital landscape changes so quickly it is essential to look constantly at how well equipped we are to keep up with developments. In particular how will jobs be effected and how fit for purpose is the current education and skills training system?
Technology is likely to dramatically reshape labour markets in the long run and to cause significant changes to the types of skills that workers will need. There is debate as to how drastic these changes will be but some studies suggest that jobs vulnerable to computerisation range from 45-60% of the current labour force. Whilst government priority is obviously boosting employment, it would be short sighted indeed not to consider how to adapt to a jobs environment that requires different skills.
The Committee meets weekly to hear from expert witnesses and consider various evidence. So far we have heard from Microsoft, Google, academics and industry experts. Most meetings are public and available to watch live via Parliament TV.
In July we published a call for evidence. This is an appeal for a public response to the questions we are considering, particularly: skills training, support for the digital sector, industry and infrastructure. What are the challenges? What should the government be doing? Please see the full text of the call for evidence here.
It is a significant amount of work and an important task. We will absorb and process a vast amount of information, cross examine witnesses, draw out the key elements and make concrete recommendations. I sincerely hope that our work will improve the nation’s connectivity, competitiveness and enable us together to be increasingly tech fit for the future.