Public Appointments Disability Review – Call for Evidence launched

Chris is leading a review into why so few disabled people apply for public appointments and has just launched a call for evidence. Ultimately the review is seeking to make recommendations that are practical and would have a real impact. Please share your experiences with Chris at: holmes.review@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Further information about accessible versions and survey links below.

Chris has written about public appointments, what they are and why he hopes people will contribute to the review:

What are Public Appointments?

A question I certainly couldn’t have answered until I was appointed to the board of the Disability Rights Commission sixteen years ago. Public appointments have low levels of public recognition and yet they are responsible for the governance of significant slices of our society, from prisons to the police, galleries to gambling, in fact, right across our state.

Although roles vary, public appointees usually provide leadership, strategic direction, independent scrutiny and, in some cases, specialist expertise in important areas of public life. These are positions that provide an essential public service as well as being personally rewarding, developing skills and experience and contributing to shaping the society that we all live in.

But with low levels of public awareness it’s not entirely surprising that levels of participation, not least by disabled people, in these opportunities is, well, somewhat low.

That’s why I’ve been asked by Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden to conduct an independent review into opening up public appointments for disabled people. What are the blockers, the barriers, the bias which may be preventing disabled people applying, getting interviewed, and indeed, getting appointed?

If we are to ensure this review comes up with evidence based clear recommendations which can drive change I need your help.

If you are a disabled person and have thought about applying for a public appointment and decided not to, if you have applied, if you have been interviewed, if you have been appointed, I want to hear your experiences, good and bad and what changes you believe would make a material difference to the entire experience.

This is quite clearly about talent, we need to reimagine that talent, what it looks like, sounds like, where it is located, we need such diverse talent across our public appointments to enable those boards to make the best decisions to benefit Britain.

As is often the case, as it is with public appointments, currently, talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. With your help this review can play a part in addressing that reality that has blighted Britain for too long.

How to get in touch:

Fill out the survey. The survey has BSL links on each page.

Please find an Easy Read booklet telling you about the review here and an Easy Read version of the survey here.

Send an email: holmes.review@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

Watch the video.

But most of all please get in touch. 

 

Chris to head a review into disability and public appointments

It was today (6 June) announced that Chris will lead a review looking at how to encourage more disabled people to apply for public appointments. The review will explore why the proportion of applicants for public appointments who declare a disability is low compared to the UK population as a whole, and how the process could be improved to encourage more applications from disabled people. It is expected that the review will make recommendations and will report later this year.  Chris said:

“I’m delighted that the government is looking seriously at this issue. Public appointments play a fundamental role in shaping society as well as within the organisations themselves. I look forward to working with the government to better understand and improve the recruitment process so that we can address the reality that whilst talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.”

The review is part of the Government’s Diversity Action Plan which also includes an ambition that by 2022, half of all public appointees should be female and 14% should be from ethnic minorities, bringing representation on public boards in line with the wider population of England and Wales.

Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden said:

 “I’m thrilled to announce that Lord Holmes will be leading the review. He combines expertise in accessibility, diversity and inclusion, as well as a wealth of personal experience on public boards.”

 

Today’s announcement was made at the Public Chairs’ Forum Diversity, Inclusion and Equality for Boards event, where the Minister spoke to Chairs of Public Bodies about his ambition for diversity in public appointments. It follows a commitment made in the Government’s Diversity Action Plan, launched in December 2017, to commission a review into the barriers facing those with visible and non-visible disabilities when considering public appointments.

 

 Centre for Public Appointments

 The Commissioner for Public Appointments

Future Talent HR Conference

Chris took part in a session on aspects of trust in sport in major HR conference; Changeboard’s Future Talent 2017. Chris spoke on the importance of trusting different people, urging that it’s time to take an inclusive approach for innovation and that companies need to become diverse or die. Chris argued that flat structures and leadership teams that lead by example, by “delivering on a promise”,  are creating the right environment for trust to flourish. He recalled moments from his own life when he had to trust in others, including his guide dog Lottie and stressed that trust is about relationships and being prepared to be vulnerable. As Chris says, “It’s not easy but it is essential.” Other speakers in the session were Dame Katherine Grainger and Sir Clive Woodward who spoke about trusting yourself and teamship and collaboration. There was positive feedback during the session and Dr Alan Watkins, chairing the discussion, drew out these lessons on trust from the world of sport and explored how they would apply to corporate leaders and organisations. The future of talent is important because the world is increasingly complex. The only way out is up. By upgrading our human operating systems.

Keynote speaker at Adidas Diversity Day Event.

Adidas Keynote

Chris was invited to speak at a major diversity and inclusion event at Adidas HQ on the topic of inclusion for innovation. The corporate focus was on the belief that the best teams are diverse teams, that the company should mirror the society they serve and that for change to happen, it must be actively pursued. In the words of the CEO’s father: “it takes a long time to do something you’re not really working on.” Chris was delighted to deliver the keynote and so much of the power of his personal experiences and philosophy spoke perfectly to the themes of the day. More than most, Chris understands the power of sport to change lives; his own story of adjusting to the unexpected shock of losing his sight as a child to become one of the country’s most successful Paralympians illustrates a deep understanding of inclusion. As he says, making a case for staying in his mainstream school and continuing in his swimming club were experiences of diversity and inclusion “before the terms really existed”. Chris goes on to discuss the various ways technology can be used to innovate for inclusion – from cassette tapes to Bluetooth beacons! – but also makes the point that innovation of thought is as important as the practical tools. A commitment to welcoming and supporting diversity is the major requirement for successful outcomes. What is often viewed as bold, brave, risk-taking he argues is not actually risk-taking when it’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. He gives many fascinating examples of successful inclusive and innovative achievements around the London 2012 games.  As Chris says “it’s not easy but it is essential”. When thinking particularly about the power of digital to disrupt, his passionate exhortation is to “become diverse or die.”

Seeing isn’t believing"Ted" talk

Later on in the day Chris delivered another short presentation, “Seeing isn’t believing” which focused on his sporting achievements and was inspired by his popular TedX talk.

Chris really enjoyed all the connections and conversations throughout the day and wanted to thank everyone who came to say hello. Discussions covered many aspects of the diversity and inclusion agenda but Chris was delighted by the enthusiasm for one of his key messages; that change can happen when one person believes that things can be other than they are.

Adidas Meet

What can law firms learn about diversity from the world of sport?

Still from Travers Smith Diversity VideoLaw firm, Travers Smith, have recently launched a diversity and inclusion initiative called “be a game-changer”, which they hope will harness the power of sport to help the company build diverse and collaborative teams and create an inclusive workplace. Chris took part in a though provoking panel discussion that explored several themes around this idea and spoke powerfully of his own experiences in sport, both as competitor and then director at London 2012. One of the lessons he explored was how companies can identify and support talent. There were also fascinating insights into how unconscious bias works and what individuals can do to make a difference, and ultimately create a more inclusive environment for everyone. Watch a short film to learn more about aims of the initiative.

 

Chris to chair YODA (Channel 4s Year of Disability Adviser Group)

Channel 4 has announced 2016 as the network’s Year of Disability. Exactly a year ago Channel 4 launched their 360 Degrees Diversity Charter which laid out a number of diversity targets. This year, the Year of Disability, Channel 4 has introduced new targets specifically on disability and Chris is delighted to chair the group of experts who will be known collectively as YODA (Year of Disability Advisers).  Other initiatives are to double the number of disabled people in C4’s most popular shows, invest £300,000 behind the scenes, assist the career progress of 20 disabled people among its suppliers and commit half of its apprenticeships and 30% of work experience placements to disabled youngsters.

There are more than 12 million disabled people living in Britain today, yet just 2.5% of people on screen are disabled. Only half of disabled people in Britain are in work compared to four fifths of non-disabled people. There are significant barriers to opportunity and Channel 4’s moves to increase participation by disabled people both on screen and behind the cameras is to be welcomed.

 Chris said:

“Three years ago, London 2012 was seen as a turning point for the visibility and inclusion of disabled people in our society, driving a clear social, economic, physical and cultural legacy for disabled people. Since then, Britain has made progress on many fronts but there is increasing evidence that disabled people are being locked out or left behind.

“Far from enjoying increased visibility and being able to participate more fully in every aspect of life there is a risk that disabled people will become more invisible as both consumers and participants, with organisations losing out on their valuable experiences and custom.”

“I welcome the moves by Channel 4 to make real progress on this issue and urge other businesses and service providers to look again and what they are doing and what they are able to do to increase representation and participation by disabled people in order to unlock the talent that is out there and to avoid Britain becoming a more segregated society.”

“This isn’t about political correctness, or being “nice”, it’s about this, creative, competitive edge.”

Channel 4 enlists YODA for its Year of Disability, Disability News Service

 

Thinking outside the box

Last Tuesday I took part in the debate considering the report of the Lords Communications Committee on Women in News and Current Affairs Broadcasting. The report was excellent, not least as a result of the superb stewardship of the Committee Chair, Lord Best. The picture painted by the report was not bright, a world far more reminiscent of Ron Burgundy than 21st Century Britain.  A world in which older women in particular find themselves at a severe disadvantage both on and off screen. It seems to me a scandal that so many older women in TV still feel that work dries up when they get to a certain age or when they have children; there are some women who have said they have had to get a facelift to maintain their TV career beyond fifty. Recently Anne Robinson asked what chance a female version of Evan Davis would have of securing that prestigious role? Where are the female Dimblebys, John Simpsons, Alastair Stewarts or Adam Boultons? What sort of message does the lack of their female counterparts send out to young women contemplating a career in television journalism? If young women don’t think they can have a fulfilling career in television that talent will go elsewhere. It’s a scandal that goes all the way to the top. Women, who make up half the viewers of television aren’t represented at board level at our major broadcasters in anything like the numbers they should be; the BBC executive board has two female executive directors, Channel 4 has one and that is it. The lack of diversity is not just a question of gender, last year, out of the 62 directors at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Ofcom, only one was non-white and none were disabled. I welcome the fact that the industry itself has recognised that it has a problem and has committed to doing something about it; we have seen some ambitious plans published by BBC, Sky and C4. With Lord Hall at the helm of the BBC and David Abrahams at Channel 4, we have reasons to be positive going forward. However, this is not a new issue. Groups like Women in Film and Television, PACT, trade unions and Directors UK have been talking about this for decades and there has been very little movement.   That is why, in the debate, I called for two things: Firstly, all the main broadcasters must end the practice of unpaid internships. This patronage is both rife and rigging the system in favour of those who are wealthy and connected rather than those who are talented. This is not limited to the broadcast industry but the broadcast industry, if they addressed this could be a beacon of good practice and lead the way for the rest of our economy Secondly, I asked broadcasters and producers to follow new guidance just produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which I launched at the Edinburgh television festival two weeks ago It is worth paying tribute to my Rt Hon friend Ed Vaizey who enabled this project to get underway, he has demonstrated sustained commitment to driving the diversity agenda since arriving at DCMS. Entitled “Thinking outside the box”, the guidance was drawn up following extensive consultation with the industry, and provides clarity about the initiatives and practices that are permissible in law.  It busts common myths about barriers that exist and provides a series of case studies from the sector to encourage broadcasters, independent production companies and industry bodies to make it easier to boost diversity. Now we’ve produced this guidance, I believe there can be no more excuses for not taking meaningful action to improve the situation.  It is not just about doing the right thing, it is about getting the best creative and competitive edge.