Weekly Poll – Public Appointments

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the Week Beginning 12 April 2021, we asked a question about Scottish Government Public Appointments.

Results

Would you consider applying for a public appointment?

  • YES – 92% (276 respondents)
  • NO – 8% (25 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Disabled Representation

The vast majority of respondents (92%) stated that they would consider applying for a public appointment.  There was overwhelming consensus amongst respondents on the need for meaningful representation of disabled people on the Board of a public body. By doing so, this can ensure that the lived experience of disabled people contributes to the key decisions and expert advice provided by public bodies.

“If we want to get future designs and policies right and build forward better, then it is critical that disabled people are on these boards to utilise their lived experiences.”

“More needs to be done to get disabled people onto public boards to make them more representative of society. This will lead to better informed decision making.”

“We need more disabled people on these boards to have a better chance of making progress.”

“You can’t make plans and decisions about disabled people without them being at the table. We have seen the mess of things that have been done without true co-production. We talk about “nothing about is without us” but 7.2% representation on public board doesn’t back up the rhetoric.”

“We need a better balance on public appointments, which better reflects society.”

Application Process

Respondents believed that the application process for public appointments can sometimes be challenging to complete due to the inaccessible nature of the application documents. It is important for application documents to be available in plain English in a variety of accessible formats, such as audio, easy read and large print.

“The application process for some of the public body boards is horrendously complicated. Simplifying this process may make this easier for disabled people to become involved.”

“I have been a member of a non-departmental public body for nearly 8 years and my time is up later this year. However, I am keen to apply for another public appointment, but I find that the application forms are getting more difficult, longer and less accessible.”

“The application forms are not very accessible and can be quite complicated. A simplified, accessible form, also in easy read would help. If I got passed this part, I have plenty experience to share from a personal perspective.”

“I would require a full guide to applying, so that I could then confidently fill out any forms during the application process.”

“I would require support to help put what I’m trying to say into words for an application form. I would require support, potentially, to attend any interview if it weren’t done electronically.”

Reasonable Adjustments

It is vital to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made throughout each stage of the public appointments process to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others. This may include providing assistive technology products, a BSL interpreter or a flexible approach to the format of the meeting.

“The public appointments team must offer reasonable adjustments and support for disabled people. A mentor may also be beneficial for some applicants.”

“I would need wheelchair access and depending on the distance, probably accommodation as I am limited to how far I can travel before the pain becomes overwhelming. I would also need my wife with me to help.”

“The public appointments team needs to be more supportive and more receptive to disabled people’s support needs.”

“I have considered public appointments before but as it’s not employment they could not offer me the support I need to attend meetings.”

“I would definitely apply for a public appointment if it meant I could give advice as to what disabled people need and want. I’d need correspondence sent to me via email, slides explained to me and guided once we have face to face meetings.”

“I would need the chairperson to understand that I can’t think on my feet and so if they were to put me on the spot by asking me what I thought about anything, I probably wouldn’t be able to say at that moment what I thought. I would also need to be given the option of contributing in different ways to the discussion than in the meeting e.g., by email or in a Word document before or after the meeting.”

“I would love the opportunity but would need support, such as some paid Personal Assistant (PA) hours.”

“I would require assistance of a Personal Assistant to help me travel to meetings. I cannot travel independently. I would also need assistance with additional expenses be it to travel or for a PA to accompany me.”

“Full information about the requirement and skills needed. I would expect Training to be supplied.”

“Please introduce a scheme similar to Access to Work to make things easier and more accessible for disabled people.”

Travel and Video Conferencing

Respondents reflected on the challenges of travelling to Board meetings, which is often dependent on the accessibility of transport networks. With more people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, this has highlighted the advantages of video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams as a means of staying connected, without the need for travel.

“There needs to be more flexibility in the locations of these Boards, otherwise disabled people may have difficulty in getting to the location which would put them off applying. New technology such as Zoom video calls should be fully utilised to allow more disabled people to become involved.”

“It needs to be accessible in terms of how to get to the place of work on public transport as well as the accessibility of the building.”

“An issue for me would be travel to meetings. If these were online via a government provider to keep things secure, then It would help me to do so. During the last year, many meetings have moved online and have been very successful. So even after restrictions are finally over, this is something that could remain as a positive that came because of the lockdown.”

“Flexibility is important, so working from home needs to be included.”

“The meetings need to be available online so it’s accessible to everyone as not all of us live in Glasgow or Edinburgh.”

“Mobility is my disability – hopefully the current online virtual participation practice that we have for our Access Panel meetings will partially continue once life gets back to normal. Panel members can then either attend in person or attend virtually. This choice of arrangement would allow me to apply for a public appointment.”

Fees

There were concerns raised from some respondents with regards to the impact of public appointment fees for people who are in receipt of social security payments.

“Disabled people should be paid for their services, whether that’s Access Panels or being a public appointee. We get such little money in benefits that asking for our time for free to do work that should already be done is too much for many disabled people.”

“The reason I wouldn’t consider a public appointment is due to any income gained from the position would affect my benefits! If there was a dispensation that any income would be reviewed like expenses which don’t impact on benefits, I would consider a post.”

“One of the problems is the earning limit if you are on benefits. This can be prohibitive and leave people losing money and worse off. This needs to be addressed.”

“Until we start to look at how public appointment fees effect benefits, we won’t get people to apply. You could end up further in poverty by accepting fees for a public appointment and losing your Universal Credit.”

“There needs to be a way of ensuring that fees paid don’t affect people’s benefits.”

Publicity and Awareness

An awareness campaign and information sessions highlighting the benefits of participating in a public appointment may help to encourage more disabled people to apply for these positions.

“There needs to be more awareness of public appointments and the skills and experience that you can develop. If it weren’t for this email i wouldn’t have heard about public appointments.”

“I would welcome a public appointment but the only public body board that actively recruits disabled people is the Motability and Access Committee for Scotland and there is always a great deal of competition when positions come up. They ran drop-in workshops, and it was really good and the panel from the public body explained everything and talked through the support available. More public body Boards need to take this approach to engage with disabled people and give opportunities to meet the chair and some of the team as part of the advertising of appointments process. I felt more confident applying.”

“There seems to be few known ‘disability’ publications where one might see these public appointments advertised, other than the Guardian, or Herald, on a regular basis. Perhaps Scottish Government websites need to target their minority prospective users better? One suggestion may be an interview by an existing disabled public body disabled representative, on BBC Radio Scotland. Or, making use of Public Service Broadcasts to get the message across? Without the publication of Scope’s – Disability Now (which, ironically never covered Scotland) there are few national publications aimed at disabled people.”

Conclusion

A large majority of respondents stated that they would be interested in applying for a public appointment, with wide recognition of the importance of increasing representation of disabled people. Respondents highlighted the need for public bodies to be proactive in providing reasonable adjustments, to ensure disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage. There must be greater clarity regarding the impact of public body fees on social security payments. An awareness campaign and information sessions can help to encourage more disabled people to apply for public appointments.