ACE Making a shift

ACE Making a shift

By Arts Council England


The Making a Shift report was commissioned by Arts Council England with the aim of improving their understanding of disabled people’s experiences of the arts and culture workforce and identifying actions to reduce barriers.

Following the release of the latest figures in 'Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case: A Data Report, 2016-17', this report shares findings and recommendations to help arts orgnisations increase the diversity of the workforce. In the general population, disabled people are less likely to be employed and, where they are, are more likely to work part time, earn less and be under-represented in senior positions than non-disabled people.

Although there is some evidence of improvement in recent years, monitoring data suggests that disabled people are significantly under-represented in the Arts Council-funded workforce. Just 4 per cent of staff in National Portfolio Organisations and Major Partner Museums self-defined as disabled (ACE 2016), although there is a high volume of ‘unknown’ and ‘prefer not to say’ responses. There are differences in artform, with music and visual arts having very small proportions of disabled employees, and theatre, combined arts or non-artform specific organisations performing much better on this.

This report was commissioned by Arts Council England in the context of its commitment to equality and diversity, in particular its ‘Creative Case for Diversity’. This is an important part of Arts Council’s current 10-year strategic framework, Great Arts and Culture for Everyone. One of its five strategic goals is that ‘the leadership and workforce in the arts, museums and libraries are diverse and appropriately skilled.’

The aim of the report is to improve the Arts Council’s understanding of disabled people’s experiences of the arts and culture sector workforce, and to identify actions that could be taken (eg by the Arts Council and arts and cultural organisations) to improve workforce representation of disabled people. It synthesises existing data, research and literature to identify key trends, noting artform and other patterns. Primary research has also been carried out through one-to-one interviews, an open space methodology focus group, and an online survey to build knowledge and understanding of disabled people and the arts and cultural sector workforce. The report also includes case studies of good practice that address the emerging themes.

The research had a particular focus on Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations, as these are organisations that the Arts Council has more scope to influence and work in partnership with in the future to improve workforce representation. During 2016 the Arts Council launched the process for organisations to apply to be part of the National Portfolio from 2018–22. This stated a desire to invest more into ‘new small and diverse organisations’. The guidance also made it clear that organisations receiving more than £250,000, those in ‘Band 2’ and ‘Band 3’, would be expected to include targets around inclusion of disabled people in their staff, board and audiences in their equality action plans. The process also created a new category of National Portfolio Organisation, ‘support service organisation’, which might be relevant to some organisations focused on work with disabled people.

The Arts Council launched four new strategic funding programmes in 2016, to work with existing investment programmes to ensure the Arts Council champions the Creative Case for Diversity in the arts and culture sector:

  • Elevate: a £5.3 million investment to strengthen the resilience of organisations outside the National Portfolio and contributing to the Creative Case for Diversity, with 40 awards being made
  • Unlimited: £1.8 million to continue to support the development and commissioning of a range of new work
    by deaf and disabled artists
  • Sustained Theatre: £2 million repurposed to support established and emerging Black and minority ethnic theatre makers across the wider theatre sector in England. Five awards were made in 2016
  • Change Makers: £2.6 million to help address the lack of diversity in arts leadership, with 20 awards made in 2016 to support both disabled and Black and minority ethnic leaders

In addition, after consulting with the arts and culture sector around how best to define ‘diverse-led’, two key changes were made: extending the definition to include ‘female led’ and ‘LGBT led’ and allowing organisations to self-define as ‘diverse-led’ based on the background of key decision makers within an organisation. This means the Arts Council can report on both those organisations where 51 per cent or more of the board and senior management team are Black and minority ethnic, disabled, female or LGBT and those that self-define as diverse-led. The 2016 report shows that 23 organisations self-defined as disabled-led. (ACE 2016)

In 2016 the Arts Council published its second data report on equality, diversity and the Creative Case. This showed the percentage of disabled people in the workforce as 4 per cent of National Portfolio Organisation staff and 4 per cent of Major Partner Museum staff. These are increases on the figures in the report covering 2012–15, from 1.9 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively, but changes in data capture methodology make direct comparisons difficult (ACE 2016).

Visit the ACE website to download the full report

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Resource type: | Published: 2018