The Scottish Government is pleased to have supported this project which provided six disabled people with the opportunity to shadow six regulated public body Boards in Scotland over a twelve month period. This is part of our wider work to tackle the underrepresentation of disabled people on the boards of Scotland’s public bodies.
We welcome the Access to Public Appointments evaluation report by Inclusion Scotland published on 27 January 2021 and publish our response to the report recommendations.
R1. Boards should be required to develop reasonable adjustments guidance, recognise reasonable adjustments as part of their standard working practices, and implement them as soon as possible when requested.
Reasonable adjustments can be requested at any point of the public appointments process. The Scottish Government will review guidance, application forms and applicant information packs to ensure that these are accessible, use plain English. We will ensure that it is clear to applicants that alternative formats such as easy read and large print are available on request. We will also review online systems used in the public appointments process to ensure these are accessible and compatible with screen reading software.
Individual public bodies each have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. The Scottish Government will communicate to public bodies, through the Chief Executive and the Board Chair, the need to ensure policy and guidance on reasonable adjustments is available and covers members of the Board.
R2. To remove financial barriers faced by disabled people and others, Boards should be required to either advance expenses payments or book services for Board members directly (for example, travel, accommodation, or support for reasonable adjustments).
We will develop guidance on how Board administration can support Board members who face financial barriers in line with revised HMRC rules governing the payment of expenses for part-time office holders.
We have developed guidance with input from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Social Security Scotland colleagues on the potential implications for those considering a public appointment or current public appointees who are in receipt of benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Social Security Scotland. This guidance can be found on the Scottish Government website and will be highlighted in the information packs for all public appointments.
R3. All public body Board members should be required to undertake Disability Equality Training at least once during each term. This should be a mandatory element of all new Board members’ on-boarding processes.
The Scottish Government will devise a training module for the online governance portal for Board members and offer a disability equality training session for Board members and Board Chairs.
As part of the induction workshops hosted by the Scottish Government three times a year for all new Board members, we will include information highlighting disability equality awareness.
R4. Public appointments vacancies should be publicised on standard employment websites, disability jobs boards online, and to disabled people’s organisations such as Inclusion Scotland who can forward these opportunities to their partners and members.
The Scottish Government are keen to work with DPO’s to promote public appointments to a wide range of people using a variety of engagement methods. We will continue to promote public appointments to Inclusion Scotland and its members. All regulated public appointments vacancies are advertised through the public appointments website (Appointed for Scotland) and through the public appointments Twitter account @scotpublicappts. Targeted emails are also sent to mailing list of individuals who are interested in public appointments as well as a wide range of organisations. The Scottish Government will review our distribution lists to ensure that disabled people’s organisations are included in all notifications for regulated public appointments vacancies and for outreach and engagement events.
R5. Develop and publicise case studies championing disabled people as effective Board members, highlighting the value their lived experience brings to the Boardroom.
The Scottish Government have been developing a series of case studies and short videos from a range of Board members. Due to Covid-19 this work was paused.
Going forward when restrictions allow, we will progress this work in interviewing and filming some further Board members and publishing these on the public appointments website (Appointed for Scotland) and including written case studies within literature promoting public appointments.
R6. Disabled applicants meeting the minimum criteria should be progressed to the interview stage for public appointments vacancies, and unsuccessful applicants should receive personalised, constructive feedback.
The current assessment process for public appointments does not use a ‘meets minimum criteria’ method but is instead based on the overall strength of the field of applicants for the role. The Scottish Government will consult with the Ethical Standards Commissioner and aim to pilot a short life project to test out a form of guaranteed interviews for disabled people in 2021/22.
The Scottish Government will hold dedicated workshops for disabled people on application and interview skills for public appointments. We will continue to provide constructive feedback to applicants for public appointments on request.
R7. Any follow-up project should develop greater interaction between shadows, public Board members, and other decision makers, to promote disabled people’s lived experiences and to implement change to make public appointments more accessible and more representative.
COVID-19 and the timeframe of the pilot had an impact on individual mentors’ availability and on some of the input public bodies were able to provide to those on the pilot project. Using the lessons learnt from this pilot we will ensure that any future iteration includes additional virtual activities and opportunities that enable participants to catch up informally, whilst providing a supportive peer network.
R8. Access to Public Appointments project should expand to run over a longer period or on an ongoing basis, utilising the framework and learning developed during the pilot.
The Scottish Government will consider a further Access to Public Appointments project using the lessons learnt from this pilot and another mentoring project which has just finished. Experience from other shadowing projects has shown the duration should be no more than eighteen months. A period of twelve months offers people the opportunity to see a Board through the key periods in the life of the Board. Therefore it may be appropriate to run a future iteration from September to August rather than basing on the calendar year.
Any future iterations of the Access to Public Appointments scheme in partnership with Inclusion Scotland and/or other partners in 2022 will be dependent in securing funding and other resource availability to run another project.
Scottish Government Public Appointments Team
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