What an interesting day! I've just spent today being "shadowed" around County Hall by Phillip. A bright, personable and enthusiastic young man, he also has a degree in German. Phillip is also blind.
His placement was one of twelve similar "job shadowing" opportunities organised this week throughout Kent County Council, with the aim of encouraging people with a disability to consider a career in local government in general, and Kent County Council in particular.
Our day started at 8.30am, and a half hour chat to establish what each of us wanted to get from our day together. Then, at 9am my meetings started - an hour long interview with an external inspection team looking at KCC's Public Health work. Then an agenda briefing for the Adult Social Services Policy Overview Committee, lunch with a our Finance Cabinet Member, a quick meeting with our Corporate Communications team, a Social Care briefing to a cross-party member group, and so on.
Through it all, Phillip was good-humoured even in the boring bits; he was patient when we spoke in acronyms and jargon; he listened to our debate and took in the facts, and when asked for comment, had clearly thought carefully about everything that was going on. Personally, I found him to be excellent company and was sad when at 4pm we had to say goodbye.
I asked to host a placement because - as KCC's Champion for Equality and Diversity - I feel it's important to understand the point of view of others. But through Phillip's sight impairment, I understood just how atrocious our buildings are for getting around if you have a disability. I saw how we all need to think about how we debate and discuss our affairs, because we don't try hard enough to make our debates understandable. And I realised that if County Councillors don't make an effort to "demystify" the issues, we can't complain when our constituents tell us they don't understand what we're doing.
Thanks Phillip - I hope we can keep in touch.