The causes of under-representation of disabled people in the arts and cultural sector workforce will be examined by a research project hoping to achieve greater access to opportunities.

Photo of audience watching a film of a disabled dancer underwater
'Creating the Spectacle!' by Sue Austin

B (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The extent to which disabled people in the arts and cultural sector workforce are given equal access is the theme of a major new research project. The research hopes to gain insight into the experiences of disabled people and improve understanding of how arts and cultural organisations currently support and develop disabled employees and artists.

Arts Council England (ACE) data reveals that disabled people are under-represented within the arts and cultural sector workforce in all role types and levels of seniority, including its own workforce. It has commissioned the research from specialist diversity consultancy EW Group in an attempt to identify the in-work support and access needs of disabled employees and the quality of support being given by arts and cultural organisations.

The findings will be used to influence ACE’s policies and efforts to achieve “greater levels of fairness in recruitment, selection and career progression, better skills and professional development provision, and more effective and equitable leadership and governance”.

The research will examine recruitment practices by arts and cultural organisations; the learning, development and skills needs of disabled people; and opportunities for employees to progress within the workforce, including in leadership and board roles.

Perceived financial barriers to working in the sector will also come under scrutiny, including the impact of changes to disability welfare benefits and access to work support, and the availability of access funds for disabled people to make artistic work or gain relevant skills. So too will the career aspirations and levels of interest in arts and cultural sector careers of young disabled people and disabled people outside of the workforce.

As part of the project, a survey is capturing the views of disabled and non-disabled people working in or with the arts and cultural sector, and their employers. Those who aspire to work in the sector and those currently out of work are also being encouraged to respond.

The issues will be explored in more depth through qualitative research with disabled people who have applied for jobs in the workforce, and with representatives of arts and cultural organisations responsible for recruitment, employment, learning and development, and retention of disabled employees.

The project will culminate with a set of recommendations for action that could be taken by ACE and arts and cultural organisations themselves to improve disability representation within the workforce. A set of case studies and examples of good practice will illustrate key barriers that impede workforce entry and progression for disabled people. ACE will publish the findings later this year.

To take part in the survey, click here

Liz Hill