Category Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Chris has always appreciated the value of celebrating diversity and promoting inclusive practices and in 2015 Chris was appointed as Diversity Adviser to the Civil Service. He is also board member at Channel 4 for Diversity. Chris has written about his personal experience of disability and this deep understanding of how inclusion works informs his professional work in this space.

New report finds lack of progress on govt diversity commitments.

Two years after Lord Holmes Review into opening up public appointments to disabled people a progress report finds recommendations and Diversity Action Plan still to be implemented.

Today, 3rd December 2020, at an online event attended by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, Chris launched a new report that highlighted the need for action to implement government diversity commitments.

This ‘progress report’ comes exactly two years after the Holmes Review into opening up public appointments to disabled people was published on 3rd December 2018. The original 2018 review analysed the barriers, blockers, and bias which resulted – at that time – in just 180 out of around 6,000 public appointments being held by disabled people.

The 2018 review set out 29 clear, practical and achievable recommendations, all of which were accepted in principle by the Government at the time. Two years on, this report examines how many of those recommendations have been fully incorporated into the operation of the public appointments process and what impact this has had on the number of disabled people applying for and becoming public appointees.

Public appointments are significant positions that have an impact on all our lives but are not, perhaps, well known or understood. Collectively public appointees are responsible for well over £200 billion of public funds administered through over 500 bodies across, for example, healthcare, education, sport and the arts, energy, security and defence.

This two years on ‘progress report’ considered the original recommendations, traced those recommendations so far as they were reflected in the Government’s Diversity Action Plan 2019 and tried, as far as is possible, to assess whether those commitments have been achieved and where further effort is still needed.

Disappointingly, the figures for new appointments and reappointments declaring a disability have fallen each year and there has been a significant lack of progress in terms of steps taken to deliver on commitments laid out in the Diversity Action Plan.  It is important to note, though targets, quite rightly have been set for the numbers of female and BAME public appointees, still today, no such target has yet been set for disabled people. 

Lord Holmes Review, Gov.uk 

Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan, Gov.uk

Why do we still have a disability employment gap 25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act?, Chris’s Blog

Disabled jobseekers ‘still face barriers to public sector roles’, Personnel Today

Annual Report, Commissioner for Public Appointments

Cabinet Office Outlines new Public Appointments Diversity Plan, Civil Service World

Lord Holmes Review Published

Seated at table facing audience; left to right: Grace Quantock, Matthew Campbell-Hill, Carly Jones, Chris Holmes, Oliver Dowden MP
Launch of Lord Holmes Review, Whitehall, 3rd December 2018

Today, to coincide with UN Day of People with Disabilities, my independent review into disability and public appointments will be launched in Westminster. Currently just 3% of public appointees declare a disability. An absolutely shocking figure. That is 180 people out of 6000 public appointments on 500 bodies responsible for £200 billion of public funds across, but not limited to: healthcare, education, the criminal justice system, energy, security and defence. These are significant positions that have an impact on all our lives.

When the Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, invited me to conduct the review he made the point that it is essential that public appointees are truly representative of the society they serve. I completely agree. I believe it is also about talent and this is a core principle underpinning the review. We must access and enable talent in its broadest most brilliant form, not just that of a tiny elite. So much talent is currently sadly wasted, often as  a result of inaccessible, non inclusive, non innovative approaches, practices and cultures.

I agreed to lead this independent review to uncover the reasons for this shocking – 3% – statistic. To discover and fully expose the barriers, blockers and bias but, most importantly, to set out ambitious,  achievable recommendations to make long-overdue change.

A key recommendation is that the Government set a target of 11.3% of all public appointees to be disabled people. .  Other recommendations focus on consistent, comprehensive data collection and transparency alongside a more innovative and flexible approach at all stages of the recruitment process.

Opening up public appointments to disabled talent is not looking to give anyone an unfair advantage. An equitable, inclusive, fully accessible and positive process puts everyone on the same start line. It allows everyone to run whatever race they choose with fairness, dignity and respect throughout. A guaranteed interview is not a leg up, it’s a tool to allow someone with valuable lived experience to get in front of an interview panel. Offering alternative ways to apply is not giving a neuro-diverse person an edge, it may well be the difference which means someone could apply at all.

The review benefitted greatly from the contributions of the nearly two hundred members of the public who responded to our call for evidence as well as Disabled Peoples Organisations, Ministers of State, Civil Servants and Public Appointees. Individual stories and experiences are the most powerful case for change as well as understanding the status quo. As one respondent said “access is not just physical, it’s emotional and attitudinal.”

Although the recommendations are focussed on increasing the number of disabled applicants, interviewees and appointees, I believe that they could have general applicability and benefits in many situations, across public appointments and to all talent acquisition and recruitment practices.

Positive change requires leadership, culture and innovation and I am convinced that substantial, sustainable change is possible. It will not be easy but it is absolutely achievable. Currently, talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. I hope this review and its recommendations will play some part in addressing this avoidable failing.

Let’s turn this public Dis-appointment into an opportunity to show that we are a country that enables and empowers all our talent, not least, that held by disabled people across the nation.

The Review is available in full and in accessible formats on Gov.UK.

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.

But most of all please get in touch. 

GDI Hub launches disability innovation challenge: enable makeathon 2.0

Chris standing at lectern and addressing room full of people.
Chris Chris speaking at the launch of Disability Innovation Challenge in the House of Lords, December 4th 2017

Chris is Chair of the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) a London 2012 legacy project based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The GDI Hub is partnered with UCL to promote collaboration between government, academics, entrepreneurs, local communities and NGOs to promote accessibility and inclusion and remove barriers faced by disabled people.

Today, (4th December) the day after the UN International Day of Disabled People, the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, and the new Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP, joined GDI Hub at an event in Parliament to launch the Enable Makeathon 2.0.  Teams from around the world will come to London to design new disability innovation products and services. The international, collaborative nature of the Makeathon makes it a unique social movement, events are taking place simultaneously in Bangalore and London. This intensive innovation programme will put ideas into action in just 90 days. Co-creation, expert guidance and collaboration will push ideas through the development, refinement and testing phases. The best will then be incubated and the winners given the opportunity to scale up their ideas. The co-creation camp begins on Wednesday 6th December.

Speaking at the launch Chris noted that “inclusion is the parent of innovation” and thanked the GDI Hub team and everyone for working so hard on this and other initiatives.

Tarun Sarwal, Innovation Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross said:

“The first Enable Makeathon held in Bengaluru, India last year led to the establishment of some great new products which Red Cross can now test in the field, helping to meet real need in conflict and post conflict situations. This year we are delighted that the GDI Hub team, with Richard Frost, are going to be running Enable Makeathon 2 in London.’

GDI hosts disability innovation summit

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), which Chris chairs, hosted a two day Disability Innovation Summit on 13th and 14th July 2017.

Chris in suit smiling in front of banner saying Global Disability Innovation Hub

The GDI Hub is London’s new global research centre bringing together thought leaders and practitioners, from many disciplines, with knowledge and experience of design and disability. Through collaboration, technology, partnerships and study GDI’s mission is to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide.

Based in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the GDI Hub is part of the 2012 Paralympic legacy programme. Over two days (13th and 14th July) linked to the World Para Championships, the Disability Innovation Summit, provided an opportunity to bring together disabled and non-disabled experts from around the world to share expertise and ideas to inspire and shape the future of disability innovation.

Technology is shifting the disability landscape. Advances in prosthetics, wheelchairs, wearable tech and bionics are changing the lives of disabled people and the potential is huge. The summit aimed to nurture and encourage those working at the forefront of engineering, computing, robotics, sport and art to come together, share knowledge and push the boundaries of design.

​The summit included keynote speeches, workshops and panel discussions:

  • ​The latest technologies and research
  • Disability dance, fashion and art
  • Global projects and innovations
  • Assistive technology
  • Built environment and inclusive design
  • Sport and community
  • Workplace and employment

Chris to chair Global Disability Innovation Hub

The announcement was made at the launch on London Tech Week which the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, opened today (12th June 2017). The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) is London’s new disability innovation research centre, bringing together disabled people, technology, academics, innovators, corporates and the local community to explore disability innovation from a new perspective. The full GDI Hub Board was also announced today. There are fifteen members from three continents and two thirds of the Board are people with disabilities.

Chris said “I am absolutely delighted to Chair the GDI Hub and to be a part of a project with such potential to transform lives. I have personally benefited from assistive technology and believe truly inclusive design not only removes barriers to disabled people but also, essentially, benefits everyone by leading to ground breaking technological solutions or applications and truly excellent design. Technology is neutral but is an incredible tool in the hands of humans and the ways in which we respond to the 4th industrial revolution and the benefits we achieve will be a measure of our civilisation. I’m looking forward to the role the GDI Hub will play in this mission, we have a brilliant team and I relish the challenge before us.”

Also at today’s event, the Mayor officially opened Plexal, Europe’s newest technology innovation destination, forming Europe’s biggest business innovation ecosystem at Here East. Spanning 68,000 square feet, Plexal has been built on the principles of a mini City & will support 800 technology start-ups & global corporations from across the world.

Another former British Paralympic gold medallist, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson joined Chris on stage to launch The Global Disability Innovation Programme, a new accelerator designed to encourage the development of technologies to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.

The programme, which is run in partnership with Plexal and UCL, will bring together disabled and able-bodies experts, users and start-ups with larger companies to accelerate the development of innovative businesses and products around disability.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups on the programme will focus on the development of innovations in areas such as accessible and affordable housing, transportation and how big data and analytics can be used to have a positive impact on the lives of disabled people around the world.

Global Disability Innovation Hub Website

Daily Mail

Evening Standard

Startups

Inclusive design for a better Britain

Chris on stage at ATEC conference.

Chris was delighted to give the keynote speech at tech conference, ATEC London 2017 today (June 6th 2017). He spoke about innovation, technology and the potential for assistive technology to offer solutions for disabled people. He also highlighted that inclusive design was beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.

ATEC London 2017 is a one-day event that allows disability professionals involved in the workplace and post-16 education to listen to and meet with assistive technology experts, solution providers and other likeminded delegates.

In his speech, entitled ‘Assistive Technology: a measure of civilization’, Chris shared his personal experience of assistive technology saying:

“From cassette tapes to text to speech software, I could not have enjoyed the education and career I have been lucky enough to have experienced so far without it.

I am genuinely and passionately excited about the potential of assistive technology to remove barriers, unlock opportunities and unleash talent.

Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and assistive technology offers a way to address that terrible imbalance.

I urge everyone to learn more about what’s out there, ask questions, find solutions and share the good news”

ATEC London 2017, which is sponsored by Barclays, gives delegates the chance to keep up-to-date with emerging assistive technology products, trends and innovations.

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of how assistive technology can promote well-being and inclusion in the workplace, whilst improving performance.

It can enable disabled employees to work effectively and increase productivity, as well as helping to reduce stress by empowering disabled people and removing barriers to work.

We spoke to @LordCHolmes about the future of #AssistiveTech at @ATEConference #ATEConference pic.twitter.com/SQ4i6s3aT9

— Barclays Access (@BarclaysAccess) 6 June 2017

Chris is also working in Parliament to increase awareness among members of the vital role assistive technology can play in improving lives and is Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology.

“PUBS ARE FOR EVERYONE; WHY BEING ACCESSIBLE IS IMPORTANT.” GUIDANCE LAUNCHED.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has published updated guidance for pubs to help licensees make their venue as welcoming as possible to those with access needs. Chris was at the launch and is delighted to endorse the guidance saying it:

“provides lots of useful information for licensees to help those with access needs enjoy the Great British pub.”

The foreword to the guidance is written by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE, who points out that:

“accessibility is not simply about physical access to the pub, but rather it is about creating the best experience for all who visit”.

The guidance gives six key features for an accessible pub:

1. Access ramp at door

2. Hearing loops on bar

3. Large print menu

4. Accessible toilet with disability sign on door

5. Staff trained to meet needs of disabled customers

6. Layout – easy to navigate and clear of obstacles.

Let’s hope the guidance is circulated widely and embraced by all pubs. Read the guidance in full.

DELIGHTED REACTION TO NEWLY ESTABLISHED “PAULLEY PRINCIPLE” ON ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORT

The Supreme Court today ruled on a long running dispute between FirstGroup Plc and Doug Paulley.

In 2012, Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, had been unable to board a bus when another passenger with a pushchair refused to move allow him to use the space. 

Mr Paulley  had argued operator FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory. 

The court ruled that this policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified.

Chris welcomes the “important milestone” but noted that as the judgement was with limits it may be necessary to look again at issues with existing legislation.  

Further legislation may offer the clarity and emphasis that is so urgently required to make sure disabled people feel confident about exercising an equal right to access public transport.