Category Archives: News

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 avoided 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. 

Lords report calls for ethical artificial intelligence

Chris Holmes standing in front of presentation screen with House of Lords report 'AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?' behind him.
At launch event for Lords Report into Artificial Intelligence

Chris has been a member of the ad hoc House of Lords Select Committee on AI and on Monday (16th April 2018) the final report and recommendations were published: “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?” 

Following 9 months of expert witness evidence and extensive consideration the report’s conclusions and recommendations emphasize that the UK is in a strong position to be a world leader in AI but that putting ethics at the heart of development and use is the best way to do this.

AI, handled carefully, could be a great opportunity for the economy. The report makes 74 specific recommendations but one key recommendation is for a cross-sector ethical code for AI, underpinned by 5 principles:

  1. AI should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity.
  2. AI should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness.
  3. AI should not be used to diminish the data rights or privacy of individuals, families or communities.
  4. All citizens have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside AI.
  5. The autonomous power to hurt, destroy, or deceive human beings should never be vested in AI.

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.’

Tech: the opportunity or carpe DLT

We are in the midst of a revolution, an industrial revolution, mark 4, with the potential to make the original one appear a mere murmur by comparison.  And there is plenty of fear abounding, the bots are coming and our jobs are going, what if it all goes wrong?  What if artificial intelligence mean the machines turn on us and Arnie’s Terminator wants so much more than our bike, boots and jacket?

Well, that’s one view and consideration of consequences I would say is always sage.  However, with the right level of caveat and caution I suggest that we can step forward with optimism and evidence based positivity.

In this spirit, today I have the pleasure of publishing a report into the opportunity for citizen and state, business and Whitehall, from what is known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), one of the technologies that has arrived with the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Entitled, Distributed Ledger Technologies for Public Good_leadership collaboration and innovation, the report seeks to set out key areas across the public sector where DLT could enable increased safety and security, transparency, traceability  and trust, reduce cost and increase service for the citizen.

So what, you may ask (as I did not so long ago), is DLT?

DLTs are typically (but not exclusively) enabled by blockchains. A block is a set of data records, as in a database or spreadsheet, which is cryptographically sealed and linked to the previous block.  The sequence of linked blocks (the blockchain) cannot be altered without breaking the chain.  Consequently, an unbroken blockchain promotes trust and provides extremely strong evidence that the data has not been altered or tampered with.  DLT then provides all parties with the correct rights or permissions and automatically enables all to have a local copy of the register or database.

This means that DLT is good for managing unique identifiers that have to be used consistently across multiple systems and organisations.  It ensures data integrity and avoids data fragmentation, allowing far greater integration of new and existing systems and improved organisational effectiveness.

Having worked with experts in the field, in the preparation of this report, I believe that DLT can play a valuable part in enhancing the delivery of government services to the citizens of the UK, in securing the UK’s competitive position as a global leader in technology-based innovation and in protecting the security of government and citizens’ data at a time when both are increasingly under threat.  Without claiming any silver bullet status for DLT, it would certainly seem worth investigating some more.

So, where and how can DLT help?

Well, for example, if HM passport office could enable a DLT solution, bye bye fake documents, identity tricksters and the like and Hello  to a potential £500M gain for the UK.  As any prophet has to say to the sceptic, “time will tell”, but certainly worth further investigation;

In the NHS, currently an estimated 25,000 days are lost, or spent, on doctor identity and pre-employment checks.  Vital, of course, but if done via DLT, imagine those 25,000 days, currently a cost, being converted into care.

Some more food for thought, with a DLT solution enabling traceability and transparency in the food supply chain, when it comes to horse in the lasagne, we could say with confidence, nay more;

Cybercrime now accounts for 50% of UK crime.  Let’s embark upon our own investigations to establish whether DLT can become our best detective and crime prevention officer.

Just some examples.  The report is in no sense claiming that these examples are the best use cases for DLT but that they (and others) are worth further investigation, experimentation and discovery.

The purpose of this report is pretty simple, to re-energise and refocus UK government attention on DLT’s potential so that we can accelerate our own digital maturity, enhance the productive capacity of our businesses and benefit our citizens.

This report is a call to action for all those with the interests of the UK at heart to join in that collaborative effort and the practical steps proposed so that the benefits of DLT can serve as a common good for UK businesses and citizens.

While the report’s focus is on one technology, or more correctly group of technologies, I am fully aware that others – 5G, Cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and even Nanotechnology – are all developing as fast and may indeed compete for future time and investment. The report makes the case that DLT has the potential to enable the better exploitation of those technologies, and also as a means of overcoming some of the issues associated with the existence in government as well as in many commercial entities of “legacy” systems developed piecemeal and over time using different software formats and access systems.

I call on Government to seize this moment.  The great news is this is not about money but leadership, collaboration and connection, experimentation, empowerment and, crucially, implementation to enable Britain to be at the forefront and realize all the benefits of the Fourth industrial revolution for us all. Carpe DLT should certainly be part of this.

Chris questions the Government on its response to the fourth industrial revolution

Today (15th November 2017) Chris asked the Government what cross-Whitehall work they are undertaking to maximize opportunities from the fourth industrial revolution; particularly in terms of digital skills, artificial intelligence, machine learning and distributed ledger technology.

The question was intentionally broad and included a range of technologies and priorities as Chris hoped to highlight that the Government must grasp the ‘everythingness’ of this new technology.

As Chris wrote in Politics Home:

“the 4IR is already well underway and it will make the first industrial revolution sound a mild murmur by comparison… There is no separate world of digital. It won’t be possible to focus on, for example, health, education or defence and leave others to “do the digital”. 

Crucially, the 4IR is inevitable, not optional and whilst I welcome the inclusion of digital in DCMS I seek reassurance that the scale of the challenge and the necessity for a cross-governmental approach is understood and acted upon.

The technology may be complex – who really knows what goes on inside the black box at Deep Mind or appreciates the finer details of the cryptograph hash function of Bitcoin. But this is not about the tech per se it is about the potential, the solutions which can be realized and what will be required from Government, from all of us, for such realization to become reality.”

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