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Covid-19: Creative Industries

Volume 805: debated on Tuesday 22 September 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking during the COVID-19 pandemic to support diversity in the creative industries.

My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting diversity in the creative industries throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. The £1.57 billion culture recovery fund announced in July provides support for cultural and creative organisations, with funding decisions informed by work that delivers social benefits and encourages diversity in both the workforce and audiences.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. As she knows, many freelancers in the creative industries are still having a problem accessing support. There is talent everywhere in this area, but that cannot be said for opportunity. Those from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, and the disabled, are being particularly hard hit. The Minister mentioned the Government’s commitment to impacting on diversity and equal opportunity through the recovery package. However, considering the Government’s commitment to levelling up, can she inform the House of the department’s specific assessment in this area?

I share the noble Baroness’s view that there is talent everywhere and that our creative industries have been an extraordinary success. On the cultural recovery fund, there is within it a priority of focusing on projects that help deliver on levelling up and on organisations that have a track record of social benefit.

My Lords, given that engagement with the creative industries can have such a positive impact on society in so many ways, does the Minister agree that it is crucial for the Government to seek to encourage a much greater involvement of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the creative industries, so as to enable those industries to represent and engage with the whole of society? Does she further agree that this is a matter of urgency, given the vulnerability of such groups at present to Covid-19 and other health risks, as well as to unemployment?

The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right. We are committed, and have been, along with many parts of the industry, to addressing the gap around accessibility for lower socioeconomic groups. It is a complex industry with a multiplicity of tiny organisations, which makes it challenging from a policy perspective—but the commitment is there.

My Lords, the creative industries are so important to this country, in terms of both the economy and our international reputation. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that progress on diversity in the creative industries over the last few years has been disappointing and that this is a time for real leadership to address this issue?

My noble friend is sadly right that the progress in this area has been disappointing. There are pockets of improvement, particularly around ethnicity in certain subsectors of the industry. However, as I said in my response to the right reverend Prelate, there is not a single body that can sort this out. That is why we are pleased to be working closely in partnership with the key industry bodies, including the Creative Industries Council, to address this point.

ONS data from September 2019 showed that 16% of the creative workforce was of working-class origins. Covid-19 is exacerbating this class crisis. Up to 35% of the workforce have had no financial support, and without employment and no access to alternative economic and social resources, 20% are leaving to find work elsewhere. Will the Government publish an assessment of Covid on the creative workforce as stratified by socioeconomic origin, and will they commit to following their own Social Mobility Commission guidance on monitoring the extent of socioeconomic diversity in the workforce, especially in those organisations getting investment from Covid support schemes?

The noble Baroness raises important points. As I said earlier, we take this issue seriously. We were encouraged by some of the work done by the Creative Industries Council, which published its Diversity & Inclusion Progress Report in, I think, May. We are beginning to get more clarity on the baseline from which we are moving. There is better diversity monitoring, better strategies to develop a talent pipeline and clear strategies to address leadership. As I say, there is a great deal of work to be done and much in train.

My Lords, the BBC plays a crucial role in supporting our creative industries and developing greater diversity, with schemes such as its Diversity Commissioning Code of Practice. The new director-general has set a 50%, 20% and 12% target for workforce diversity at the BBC itself in terms of gender, race and disability. Does the Minister welcome this initiative, and is her department giving leadership by pressing for higher departmental workforce diversity targets than currently exist?

We absolutely welcome the announcement from the new director-general about targets. I believe I am right in saying that my department is one of the most diverse in Westminster.

My Lords, the Minister has already made clear some of the points I was going to ask her about. But is she aware of the extent to which the creative industries have helped both the physical and mental well-being of the young and the old during lockdown? It is essential—I hope she will make this point again—that this important aspect is not overlooked and that the Government continue to provide support.

We are absolutely clear that the role of the creative industries in protecting our mental health in particular has been vital during lockdown.

My Lords, the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme’s rules, which were published last week, say in rule 11 that it is expected that funding granted under the scheme will comply with social commitments that address issues such as lack of diversity. This is very welcome. However, there appears to be a let-out clause for pre-existing productions. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will scrutinise this issue carefully and that any attempts by producers in receipt of these funds to weaken commitments to diversity will be rigorously challenged?

I am very happy to take back the noble Lord’s point and ensure that this is looked at carefully, as he suggests.

Diverse talent going into the creative industry depends so much on educational support. Can the Minister inform the House what percentage of schools have restarted their dance, drama and music classes since they went back earlier this month?

The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to people working in the creative industries. Many have lost their livelihoods—[Inaudible.]

My Lords, I am afraid the noble Baroness is inaudible. If she would like to write to the Minister, I am sure she would be happy to answer her question.