MACS - good practice in planning and publicity - 2017

Key learning outcomes

  • Methods for attracting disabled people to apply successfully
  • Using easy read materials is important when people with learning difficulties are needed by the board
  • Running an open day targeted at a currently underrepresented group pays dividends
  • Understanding that it is more than the appointments process that matters. Reasonable adjustments may have to be made by the board to allow people with disabilities to participate fully.

Background

MACS provides independent advice to Scottish Ministers on transport accessibility for disabled people. The regulations that established MACS mean that the Convener and at least one-half of the members of the committee have to be disabled persons.

Two appointment rounds were run. One to find a new convener and the other for six new members. The member appointment dates were to be staggered. 

The Commissioner decided that these rounds should have medium level oversight. This means the Public Appointments Adviser’s (PAA’s) involvement ends at the conclusion of the planning phase. 

The prior two MACS appointment rounds demonstrated good practice. The same selection panel chair was going to chair the new convener round which provided a level of continuity and knowledge.

Planning

The panel chair had noted at the conclusion of the last appointment round that there was scope to make further improvements. She felt that a wider and more diverse range of people could be both encouraged and enabled to apply. As well as hoping to attract applications from younger people and people from a BME background, the panel chair felt that the appointment process could be made more accessible to applicants with learning disabilities. This lived experience was missing on the board. 

The PAT Development Manager made early contact with the panel chair for the convener round. Part of the Development Manager’s role is to identify good practice that can be applied more widely. Underrepresentation of disabled people on Scotland’s boards is an area requiring attention. They identified key lessons from the previous rounds, both good practice to carry forward and what might be done differently. It was also recognised that the secretariat at MACS was well-versed in ensuring that appropriate adjustments are made for each new member, regardless of any disability that they may have, to participate fully on the Committee. 

The PAT and the Scottish Government’s equalities team made contact with Inclusion Scotland. This body is a consortium of organisations of disabled people and individuals who work with others to draw attention to and address the physical, social, economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that affect the everyday lives of disabled people in Scotland. 

The PAT was considering commissioning Inclusion Scotland to examine current Scottish Government practices to make the wider appointments system more attractive and accessible to people with disabilities. This appointment round offered an opportunity to gather more intelligence on changes that could be made.

Planning involved Inclusion Scotland and both selection panels and their chairs as well as the PAA. Much of the discussions revolved around the particular barriers faced by people with mental health issues and learning difficulties. Given the complex nature of the planning, two pre-planning meetings as well as two planning meetings were held. Time and effort was spent on exploring the needs of the board and on how best to express those as transparently as possible and without the inclusion of unnecessarily restrictive requirements.  The person specifications were put together using the core skills framework. This meant that the panels understood what good evidence for each criterion looked like and how each would be tested. Applicants whose skills in combination most closely met the needs of MACS would be appointed.

The panel also put time and effort into shortening the application pack and making it easier to read and more welcoming. Additionally, and this was ground-breaking, the packs and associated materials were also produced in an easy read version to make the content accessible to potential applicants with learning disabilities. 

Publicity 

The panels considered the management information gathered from the previous rounds in order to better target publicity. The panels sent targeted emails and made phone calls to partner organisations, asking them to use social media and traditional methods to reach out to members, supporters and service users. The panels also produced a poster which could be used at locations such as bus and train stations. The panels also asked their partner organisations to cascade information to other organisations, or signpost them so the panels could do so, to achieve a positive ripple effect.  These tasks were carried out by the MACS secretariat making publicising the roles practically free. 

News about the vacancies, as with all others, also appeared on the appointed for Scotland website. Additionally, and this again was ground-breaking for a MACS round, the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland sponsored an open day. The day was run by Inclusion Scotland for its members and stakeholders along with the support of People First Scotland. People First Scotland is an independent organisation run by and for its members. It works to support people with learning difficulties to have more choice and control over their lives.

The open day was held in June in the Station Hotel in Perth. A flyer was produced to publicise the day and was issued to stakeholder organisations via PAT and Transport Scotland as well as by direct email-shot to all subscribers to Inclusion Scotland’s regular newsletters. 

The flyer made it clear that the purpose of the day was to explain the work of MACS and to give people information and support to apply for the vacancies.  The Scottish Government also paid people’s expenses for attending. The panels felt this was important as they understood that having to spend to attend might inhibit applications from a wide and diverse pool of applicants. 

Conclusion

The chair of the panel confirmed that she was delighted about the level of interest generated during this appointment round and about the diversity and quality that the appointment process delivered. 

You can read about the new Convener by reading the press release.

There were also two press releases about the new member appointments:

More information

You can obtain more detailed information on any of the materials referred to in this report from Ian Bruce, the Public Appointments Manager in the ESC office:
Tel: 0131 347 3897
Email: i.bruce@ethicalstandards.org.uk