The Arts Council has admitted that only two per cent of its directors – and just three per cent of its managers – are disabled people, despite having achieved “Disability Confident Employer” status under the government’s discredited disability employment scheme.
Arts Council England (ACE) has now become the latest employer to achieve the top two levels of the Disability Confident scheme – including government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions – despite their own troubling records on disability employment.
The figures came in ACE’s fourth annual diversity report (pictured), which showed figures for 2017-18.
ACE, the government’s national development agency for art and culture, produced a stream of figures in its report which revealed almost no progress in increasing the representation of disabled people among staff, managers and directors in larger organisations funded by ACE.
But its own results were just as bad, and often worse, with disabled people making up just six per cent of its overall workforce in 2017-18, the same as the previous year.
And just two per cent of its directors (down from three per cent in 2016-17) and three per cent of its managers (the same as 2016-17) were disabled people.
Abid Hussain, ACE’s director of diversity, admitted that ACE had “as much if not more work to do than the sector”.
He said: “It’s really, really key for the Arts Council to be seen as an employer that disabled people want to work for.
“We need to be removing any barriers that people are facing.
“If we can have disabled people informing our policy-making, informing the way our funding is distributed, but also having a very honest conversation about the things we can do better, then I think we’ll see a shift in our culture and our ability to see the progress we want to see.”
There were also troubling results from its survey of major ACE-funded museums, with the proportion of disabled directors falling from four per cent to just two per cent.
And two major arts organisations – Bristol Old Vic and The University of Warwick – both admitted that they still do not employ a single disabled person, three years on from ACE figures that showed that disabled people made up zero per cent of their workforces.
Other arts organisations – all of which have more than 50 permanent staff – who admitted that disabled people made up zero per cent of their employees included The Customs House, in South Shields, Hull City Council, and Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham.
Across the whole of ACE’s national portfolio of funded organisations, the percentage of disabled workers rose from four to five per cent and remained at four per cent for its major funded museums.
Sir Nicholas Serota, ACE’s chair, said: “Progress has been too slow, there’s no question about it.”
ACE said its report showed that fewer people were now responding to questions about their own status with “prefer not to say”, but many organisations were still returning a high level of “unknown” responses.
This could mean that there were more disabled people working in organisations than the report suggested.
It plans to put more pressure on organisations which consistently report high levels of “unknown” data, “reminding them of their obligations under their funding agreements”.
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