Category Archives: News

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

Bus open data: a data revolution but an accessibility fail

Ministers are completing the legal groundwork for the Bus Open Data Service (BODS), paving the way for new powers by the end of the year to ensure operators disclose data on fares, timetables and locations. Lord Holmes objects to the fact that accessibility data will not also be included.

The regulations would provide new legislation to require bus operators of local bus services across England, but outside London, to openly publish data electronically about their services through legally mandated data standards.

The move is designed to boost passenger numbers and support travel app development and follows Transport for London’s successful open data strategy and Transport for the West Midlands’s investment in providing a single data source for apps and journey planners across the region.

In London it is estimated that Citymapper and the Bus Times app had together delivered economic benefits of between £90m and £130m a year from travel time savings.

It has been over a year since the Bus Services Act was in the Lords at which time Lord Holmes raised the fact that there was no requirement for operators to provide accessibility data for vehicles or bus stops with ministers.

Despite these concerns, the Department for Transport failed to make such provision in the regulations and has even refused to provide a timeline for the when operators might be obliged to provide this data. Lord Holmes said:

‘It’s an extraordinary position that we find ourselves in. Over a year after we were told it’s not the right time to do this, again we see accessibility treated as a nice-to-have option or even an irritant rather than an essential element and an economic driver.

‘Everyone benefits from this having this. It is not an inordinate cost and burden. It’s not seen as an imperative for all concerned.

‘This information has significant economic and psychological benefits, it will help with rebuilding the economy and rebuilding communities by helping social ills such as isolation. There is nothing that is not positive and inclusive in this.’

The DfT has always maintained that requiring the disability data was too much of a burden for operators. However, this argument was dismissed by Lord Holmes.

‘This is just a deeply disappointing and avoidable mistake. This is not the hard stuff. The data is known. The specification for every vehicle on the road is known and it can be applied to the routes. It should have been seen as a positive step for all concerned.’

Bus Open Data: A data revolution but an accessibility fail, Transport Network, 8 July 2020

Bus accessibility fail is open to legal challenge, peer warns, Transport Network, 27 July 2020

Disability taxi access to Bank Junction is not a luxury but a necessity, Taxi Point, 3 July

Business and Planning Bill must include small breweries

House of Lords 13th July 2020

Today (13th July 2020) speaking in the Business and Planning Bill Chris warned that, if changes were not made to the legislation, hundreds of small business’ in the brewing trade may needlessly go out of business.

In response to Covid-19 this relaxation of licensing laws for breweries, pubs and the wider hospitality sector to automatically extend premises licences to allow sales of alcohol off the premises is welcome.

However, hundreds of small breweries find themselves completely locked out, unable to serve their product to the public, successful business’ facing bankruptcy for want of small, doable, legislative changes.

Chris said:

“The situation, for hundreds of small breweries is, currently, precarious.”

“These breweries are facing a bleak, if not no,  future for want of simple changes to the legislation which would enable them to share in the unlock and have a successful summer.”

The current difficulties are caused by the fact that:

  • Some breweries do not have a premises licence and cannot offer takeaway and delivery directly to the public. This Bill will not help them during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • 1 in 4 breweries (around 500 of the 2000 breweries in the UK) do not currently have any way to sell directly to the public.
  • Small breweries have seen their sales reduced 65-82% because of Covid-19 and have not received the same level of financial support as pubs and the hospitality sector, such as the Business Rate holiday or £25,000 grant.

Chris proposed several amendments to the Bill. He said:

“65% of small breweries have been mothballed during Covid-19. Trade during the summer months will be vital for their survival.  We have the opportunity to make small changes to this legislation,  enabling them to trade successfully going forward.”

“We could do such a service for small breweries, if we legislated for an extension to the licencing relaxation to allow small independent breweries who currently cannot sell directly to the public to be able to do so on a temporary basis.”

“The innovation, ingenuity and hard work we have seen from the small brewers, over the past decade has been impressive.  New brands, flavours and concepts have brought new generations and sectors of society into, not only the product, but the methods of production and community centred approach that many of these business’ have taken since they were established.”

“Small legislative changes will make a big difference to our breweries, we owe it to them to bring them into the Bill.”

Read the Business and Planning Bill and all documents here.

Digital Technologies and Democracy Select Committee Report Published

Trust is bust, democracy hangs on: just, who has sussed, who is fussed?

Thirteen months in the making, today (29th June 2020) we published “Digital Technologies and the Resurrection of Trust”. Our Lord’s select committee report into democracy and digital technologies and a committee on which I was honoured to serve.

Thousands of pages of written evidence, hundreds of hours of in person testimony and many more hours of analysis and discussion distilled into 45 recommendations. Each recommendation standing on its own merit but, taken as a whole, with the potential to positively impact our digital experience and democratic engagement very much for the better.

Chaired brilliantly by David Puttnam, our cross-party committee approved every detail of the report unanimously.  Lord Puttnam said, understandably, it was like making a movie.

It has all the elements of Hollywood blockbuster:  David’s data, purloined by Goliathian tech giants. Our love for democracy tested to its limits, light and dark, duplicity disguised as dream, a man, on an unshakeable mission, ‘to do no harm’.

But this movie is already rolling and has been for well over a decade; picking, pushing, click bait, click hate, the more extreme, the more cash they cream.  The business model is simple, the more extreme, shocking or divisive the content, the longer the user dwells and the more monetizable the whole thing. The ‘attention economy’. Oh yes, at the same time, your data is stored and sold to the highest bidder for whatever they choose – they own it.  The bucks have never stopped here.

And the point, for some, is not to manipulate the democratic process. It’s not about backing a winner or determining the loser, the greater prize, is to destroy trust in the very democratic process itself.

As Lord Puttnam perfectly puts it:

“It is easy to forget the fragile foundations upon which so many of our freedoms are built – until they become threatened.”

And threatened they most certainly are, right now, under a “pandemic of misinformation and disinformation”.  Fake news is nothing new particularly not in the political arena.  What is new is the volume and the velocity which distorts and drowns out facts.  Yes, those fusty things, facts, thoroughly and fundamentally done in.

Covid could hardly bring a clearer screen for this moving picture. Fake news now ramped up to killer status.  In the midst of the pandemic, the anti vaxers, conspiracy theorists and Covid cures taken despite their incredulity. It’s not just the proposed Dettol that stinks.

Just this last week or so, two separate events epitomising so much of what we speak of in our report.  First, the Trump Tulsa rally.  Putting aside the decision to hold a mass rally during the worst pandemic in a century, let’s consider the role of social media in this scene.  K-Pop loving Gen Z via TikTok got heavily involved, creating fake accounts and snapping up vast numbers of Tulsa tickets they had no intention of using.  As a result, just over six thousand Trump fans in a venue fitted for over nineteen thousand. Interestingly, the true success of the TikTok attack was probably not the, undoubtedly powerful and undermining, images of empty seats but the destruction of potentially lucrative data for the Trump campaign team come the November election,

So, objective achieved, Trump, successfully trolled.  Successful, in its own terms, certainly but what of the essence of it?  Is trolling Trump any more virtuous than Trump twittering?

And now Facebook faces an advertising boycott despite announcing plans to prohibit hate speech and better protect groups such as immigrants from attacks. Facebook’s plans have not gone far or fast enough to prevent dozens of brands including Unilever, Verizon and Coca-Cola cancelling advertising for between a month and six months causing shares to fall more than ten percent over the last week.

What about freedom of speech? I completely endorse this right as the bedrock of democracy.  But what about freedom of reach?  It is significant and brings us back to that issue of volume and velocity.  Say what you like, it may well leave a rancid taste but your right to say it, is right.  But, when such views, for want of the bucks, are promoted and recommended by the platforms, this is a distortion, not a right, and, as we state in the report, the platforms must have a clear responsibility for this.

Our 45 recommendations deal with this principle and, also cover, in detail, the regulation, regulators, sanctions and more:

Regulation of mis/disinformation

We recommend that the Online Harms Bill (OH Bill) should be introduced within a year of this report’s publication and should make it clear that mis and disinformation are in scope.

As part of the OH Bill, Ofcom should produce a code of practice on misinformation – if a piece or pattern of content is identified as misinformation by an accredited fact checker, it should be flagged as misinformation on all platforms. The content should then no longer be recommended to new audiences.

Fact checking

Ofcom should work with online platforms to agree a common means of accreditation, initially based on the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), a system of funding that keeps fact checkers independent both from Govt. and from platforms and develop an open database of what has been fact checked across platforms and providers.

Content moderation

The Government should establish an independent ombudsman for content moderation to whom the public can appeal should they feel they have been let down by a platform’s decisions. The ombudsman’s decisions should be binding on the platforms and create clear standards to be expected for future decisions for UK users. These standards should be adjudicated by Ofcom. The ombudsman should not prevent platforms removing content which they have due cause to remove.

A joint committee of Parliament would oversee the work of the proposed ombudsman, including setting the budget and having the power of veto over the chief exec’s appointment.

Political advertising

We recommend that relevant experts in the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), Electoral Commission, Ofcom and UKSA should co-operate through a regulatory committee on political advertising. Political parties should work with these regulators to develop a code of practice for political advertising, along with appropriate sanctions, that restricts fundamentally inaccurate advertising during a parliamentary or mayoral election, or referendum. This regulatory committee should adjudicate breaches of this code.

Imprints

The Government should legislate immediately to introduce imprints on online political material. This could be done through secondary legislation.

Advert libraries

Ofcom should issue a code of practice for online advertising setting out that in order for platforms to meet their obligations under the ‘duty of care’ they must provide a comprehensive, real time and publicly accessible database of all adverts on their platform. This code of practice should make use of existing work on best practice.

Personal data in political campaigns

The Government should legislate to put the Information Commissioner Office’s (ICO) draft code on political campaigners’ use of personal data onto a statutory footing.

Algorithmic recommendation

For harmful but legal content, Ofcom’s codes of practice should focus on the principle that platforms should be liable for the content they rank, recommend or target to users.

Ofcom should issue a code of practice on algorithmic recommending. This should require platforms to conduct audits on all substantial changes to their algorithmic recommending facilities for their effects on users with characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010. Ofcom should work with platforms to establish audits on relevant and appropriate characteristics.

Ofcom should be given the powers and be properly resourced in order to undertake periodic audits of the algorithmic recommending systems used by technology platforms, including accessing the training data used to train the systems and comprehensive information from the platforms on what content is being recommended.

Platforms v publishers

The report uses the term ‘platforms’ but holds them to a responsibility for a duty of care, responsible for the content that they promote to large audiences, rather than content they host. Ofcom should have the power to sanction platforms that fail to comply with their duty of care in the OH Bill. These sanctions should include up to 4% of global turnover, and powers to enforce Internet Service Providers blocking of serially non-compliant platforms.

Regulatory capacity

The Government should introduce legislation to enact the ICO’s proposal for a committee of regulators that would allow for joint investigations between regulators. This committee should also act as a forum to encourage the sharing of best practice between regulators and support horizon scanning activity.

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation should conduct a review of regulatory digital capacity across the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), ICO, Electoral Commission, ASA and Ofcom to determine their levels of digital expertise. This review should be completed with urgency, to inform the OH Bill before it becomes law.

Freedom of expression

We protect free expression online by focusing on what platforms algorithmically promote rather than what they host. This means that platforms would not be encouraged to remove harmful but legal content. They would be required to not promote it through their algorithms or recommend it to users. This gives people the freedom to express themselves online but stops it from reaching large audiences.

We also support free expression by improving platform’s content moderation decisions. We do this by requiring greater transparency of what content they take down so that the rules that govern online debate are clearer and by establishing an online ombudsman who will be empowered to act for users online.

Anonymity online

Ofcom should work with platforms and the Government’s Verify service, or its replacement, to enable platforms to allow users to verify their identities in a way that protects their privacy. Ofcom should encourage platforms to empower users with tools to remove unverified users from their conversations and more easily identify genuine users.

Online voting

We received a small amount of evidence that was in favour of online voting. In the round, however, opinion was overwhelmingly against introducing voting online. We heard that online voting might cause people to question the trustworthiness of election results and create fertile ground for conspiracy theories.

Exercising your democratic vote is an important act that should have some ceremony about it; visiting a polling station, for those for whom this is possible, is an important part of this. We should not seek to substitute or undermine this significant and important act with an online process.

Journalism in a digital world

We recommend that the CMA should conduct a full market investigation into online platforms’ control over digital advertising.

The Government should work urgently to implement those recommendations of the Cairncross Review that it accepts, as well as providing support for news organisations in dealing with the impact of COVID-19.

Education/digital literacy

Ofsted, in partnership with the Department for Education, Ofcom, the ICO and subject associations, should commission a large-scale programme of evaluation of digital media literacy initiatives.

The Department for Education should review the school curriculum to ensure that pupils are equipped with all the skills needed in a modern digital world. Critical digital media literacy should be embedded across the wider curriculum based on the lessons learned from the review of initiatives recommended above. All teachers will need support through Continuous Professional Development to achieve this.

Currently, we have a sub optimal online world that is contributing to the erosion of trust in our democratic institutions and processes.  We hope that our report and the 45 recommendations within demonstrate that there is nothing inevitable about this and, velocity aside, not that much which is new.

It’s in our hands, our (well washed) hands and as we type, tap, and share, we must take more care.  What kind of conversations and discussions do we want to be part of and on what kind of social media? Do we want rigorous respectful debates that are open, transparent, accountable and trustworthy?

If not, why not pack away the public square, put away the polling stations, and with muffled cry, let our democracy die.

It’s no one else’s democracy, save ours.

AI, a public good?

The Covid pandemic is providing ample opportunities to consider the potential of technology for public good, indeed, what area of public good is more important than public health?

One example, the NHSX tracing app promised significant benefits although, unfortunately, these seem far from being realised. It does, however, give us an opportunity to look at where it has worked and consider the risks.

A recent report from Stanford shows how Taiwan managed to avoid the extreme lock down measures seen here and around the world yet still successfully limited and contained the spread of the virus. How? The report shows five interconnected factors: pandemic readiness, national electronic health records database, wide scale testing, big data analytics and the use of mobile technology to track movements of individuals who tested positive for Covid-19.

The benefits of a functioning mobile app are clear but the use of this technology has raised concerns around transparency, trust  and data privacy rights.  This is an important issue for public discussion. I am passionate about the potential of technology for the public good and believe there is no better part of society than the public sector to lead the charge in the UK’s role as a global leader in responsible AI innovation.

Our Civil Service colleagues will be able to do a tremendous amount of social good if they approach the design and implementation of AI systems by making the realisation of ethical purpose and the pursuit of responsible practices of discovery a first priority.

Last year the govt published a guide to using artificial intelligence in the public sector.  The guidance consists of three sections:

  • understanding AI;
  • assessing, planning and managing AI and, most importantly,
  • using AI ethically and safely.

The guidance focuses heavily on the need for a human-centric approach to AI systems which aligns with positions of other forums including our work on the Lords AI select committee.

The Guidance also stresses the importance of building a culture of responsible innovation, and recommends that the governance architecture of AI systems should consist of a framework of ethical values; a set of actionable principles; and a process-based governance framework.

I have asked the government what plans they have to put this guidance on a statutory footing.

I hope they will think carefully about the statutory and non statutory mechanisms to ensure the safe and ethical use of AI and data technologies. The government has also promised that a national data strategy will be published this year. It is absolutely essential that we get this right. If we make sure we are regulating in such a way that supports the design implementation of ethical, fair and safe AI systems then that really would be ‘world beating’.

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.

Chris calls on govt to end scandal of unpaid internships

Chris’s private members bill to end unpaid internships is scheduled for second reading in the House of Commons today (23rd November 2018) Chris is calling on the Government to back his bill to end the scandal of unpaid internships.

Also published today new Sutton Trust research finds confusion around the law on interns.
Over a quarter of graduates (27%) have taken on an unpaid internship, with many having to rely on parents, friends and second jobs to get by.

Pay As You Go surveys graduates and employers to get a detailed view, for the first time, of the types of internships that graduates are completing in their first few years in the job market. The research finds that graduate internships appear to be on the rise, with 46% of 21-23 year olds having done one, compared to 37% of 27-29 year olds. Younger graduates are also more likely to have taken on more than one internship.

In many top professions, internships are seen as a requirement before a first job. But previous research by the Sutton Trust found that unpaid internship now costs a single person living in London a minimum of £1,100 per month. The significant costs associated with unpaid internships are shutting many less advantaged young people out of careers. In prestigious industries such as media and the arts (including fashion, theatre and tv), up to 86% of internships on offer are unpaid.

According to today’s report, middle-class graduates are more likely to have taken on an unpaid internship than those from a working class background (29% vs 23%). They were also more likely to have received money from their parents to fund their internships (29% compared to 20% of working class), and have money saved they could draw on (39% compared to 33%). Working class graduates were more likely to take on extra work to fund themselves (31% compared to 25% of those from a middle class background).

The research finds that both graduates and employers are confused about the current law on unpaid internships. Almost half of graduates (47%) thought unpaid internships were ‘legal in most situations’ or didn’t know, while up to 50% of employers incorrectly thought a range of scenarios where an intern was being paid under the national minimum wage were legal.

While doing an internship is associated with higher salaries, there is some evidence that doing multiple unpaid internships may actually have a negative impact on employment and wages. This suggests that many young people in certain industries are being trapped in cycles of unpaid placements without significant benefits to their career. Many internships offer little in the way of training, and are instead focused on completing necessary work for their employer. 70% of employers say that interns do useful work for their business.

The Trust is backing Lord Holmes’ bill and would like to see all internships longer than one month to be paid at least the national minimum wage of £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, and ideally the Living Wage of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London).

In addition, the report recommends that internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than being filled informally and recruitment process should be fair, transparent and based on merit.

The end of the road for shared space

Inclusive Transport Strategy

At the end of last month the Department for Transport published the long awaited  Inclusive Transport Strategy (25th July 2018) setting out plans to make the transport system more inclusive and calling for an end to shared space.

An inclusive transport strategy is so important is because enabling equal access to transport means so much more than getting people on trains and buses. It’s about why people want to get on trains and buses, it’s about ensuring disabled people have equal access to jobs, schools, colleges, the freedom to visit friends and family and use their own high street.

Shared Space

Chris is a passionate advocate for improved accessibility and inclusion and has long campaigned on a design idea known as “shared space”.”Shared space” schemes, where features such as kerbs, road surface markings, designated crossing places and traffic signs are removed, have been introduced in many town centres in recent years. The intention was to create better places the reality, sadly, was a terrifying free for all.

Moratorium and Guidance

In 2015 Chris conducted a survey into peoples experiences of shared space finding them to be overwhelmingly negative. Over a third of people reported actively avoid shared space schemes and 63 per cent of respondents rated their experience as poor. Chris is delighted that two of his recommendations from that report have been adopted by the Department for Transport:

  1. an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes and
  2. updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.

Many people, organizations and individuals, have been involved in raising awareness of the problems with shared space over the years. It has been discussed in parliament, the subject of Select Committee scrutiny in both the Lords and Commons and investigated by industry body the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT).  In the CIHT report Creating Better Streets not one of the case studies examined was found to have successfully created a fully inclusive environment.

End of the road….

One of the most well known “shared space” schemes is in Exhibition Road, London, although the recent introduction of bollards to make one half of the open carriageway completely pedestrianized can only be a tacit acceptance that the scheme as originally designed was not working.

Chris calls on local authorities, engineers and designers to engage with the inclusive transport strategy and take seriously the challenge of considering accessibility requirements in planning and infrastructure.

Chris has said:

“this is nothing to do with seeking to freeze the past or frustrate change, it is about looking forward, being innovative, engaging with technology and the smart cities agenda and ensuring that we produce intelligent, inclusive, public spaces that work for all.”

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.