Transcript of Radio Ombudsman #14: Rebecca Hilsenrath on human rights challenges and opportunities

Rob Behrens talks to Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Rebecca Hilsenrath about how current trends and changes in our world will impact on citizens’ human rights. They also discuss how the Ombudsman and the EHRC can work in partnership to protect human rights.

You can also download a pdf of the transcript (159 KB) or listen and subscribe to the podcast on SoundCloudiTunes or Spotify.

Rob:    Hello. This is Rob Behrens here, welcoming you to Radio Ombudsman. And we’re very lucky to have a special guest today, Rebecca Hilsenrath, who is the Chief Executive Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. You are very welcome.

Rebecca:    Hi Rob, thank you very much for having me.

Rob:    Now, we’ve got lots of things to talk about. You have a wonderful CV and career. You were educated at Cambridge University, where you studied classics and law. You’re also a novelist, writing under the pseudonym of Jane Diamond, is that correct?

Rebecca:    It is true, although I’m a bit disarmed that you actually found that out, but yes, it is true.

Rob:    You have established two schools during the course of your career, which is very interesting. Not many people will have done that. And you have been named as one of the top 100 lawyers in the United Kingdom, in 2012 and after that date. So, you now have a high profile job, as the head of an organisation currently investigating human rights records of the BBC and the Labour Party.

We won’t ask you about those things, but we’re very interested to ask you about your early life and the values that were instilled in you. Could you tell us a bit about that?

Rebecca:    Thank you. That’s quite hard to encapsulate, isn't it? But I suppose I would start by saying that my grandfather was a spy.

Rob:    Your grandfather was a spy, not many people…no-one has said that.

Rebecca:    No, but it’s a good opening line, isn't it?

Rob:    Absolutely.

Rebecca:    My grandfather was a spy and, at the start of the Second World War, he was running spy rings in Holland. And obviously things got dangerous, so he sent his children back to England, which is why my father ended up spending a chunk of the war on the outskirts of Wales, near Ludlow in Shropshire.

My grandfather than got out of Holland on the last boat, when the Nazis came, and ended up decoding Enigma in Bletchley Park.

Rob:    Wow.

Rebecca:    My grandfather’s father was German and my grandfather was bilingual, and he was one of those people who helped with partially decoded messages, because he knew the language. And my father’s memory was that, all that period of time, my grandfather was very depressed and angry, because I think he was one of the earlier people to know about the Holocaust.

And I mention those things because of what I took away from that and the values that I grew up with. First of all, my father was profoundly affected by having this period of time in Shropshire, in a little village with no electricity, no running water, no mains, no telephone, nothing. 

And, as a result of that, I’ve actually lived half of my life in Wales, because the countryside was so important to my family… that I’ve always been a bit of a half-and-half person. My father never really adapted to London life after that. And, of course, growing up, as any Anglo-Jew does, with that sort of background of the Holocaust and that understanding of what happens when the human rights framework completely falls away.

My Jewish way of life is very important to me and, as indeed, I’m very proud of my grandfather’s contribution. And we were brought up to be educated, to work hard, to make a contribution to the community.

Rob:    Did you know your grandfather?

Rebecca:    I did, yes.

Rob:    And did you talk to him about these things?

Rebecca:    Yes and no. Yes, in terms of Bletchley Park. In fact, I took…not my grandfather, but I took my dad back to Bletchley Park, which now is a museum and you can go. And we saw the hut where my grandfather worked and that was huge for all of us. 

But no, we didn’t talk about the emotional bit, the Holocaust piece, that was not… As many people of my grandfather’s generation, it wasn't something you spoke about. And in many ways I think my father was brought up with the idea that you didn’t talk about these things and you kept your head below the parapet. That was quite important as an Anglo-Jewish family growing up after the war.

Rob:    Is your father still alive?

Rebecca:    He is.

Rob:    And does he hold the same position?

Rebecca:    Well, my father… It’s interesting, actually. My father has dementia. He lives with me. My mother died a few years ago. And my father really struggles with the coverage in the papers of anti-Semitism. It’s a hugely difficult topic for him, which is kind of understandable. 

For many people… My father-in-law, who was a Holocaust survivor and came out of Vienna during the war, and is still alive, and he’s 99 and he is American. He lives in New York. He finds the coverage of growing intolerance, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, incredibly difficult. And I think all that generation do.

Rob:    So, it’s clear that you would inherit those values and seek to make them real in your life. But when you were growing up, when was it you decided what you wanted to do?

Rebecca:    Well, I fell in love with classics when I was at school and I really enjoyed studying. I studied at Cambridge and I loved language and history. I’ve always loved reading, loved language, and that idea of decoding Latin and Greek was great fun.

I think the change to law was a big thing for me, because it was about real people. Which is to say that Cicero was a real person, but I remember starting to read legal cases in the Cambridge Law Library and just being entranced by the idea that these things had happened to Mr Smith and Mr Jones in the 20th Century. And when you're really used to studying Tacitus, that’s quite a big turn-on. 

And the idea of actually working in a discipline that was going to help people… And my mother was a teacher, I think that was a big thing for me, a big influence.

Rob:    When you left university, you didn’t go straight to the Human Rights Commission. It didn’t exist then, of course.

Rebecca:    It didn’t, no.

Rob:    So, just tell us a bit about what you did on your way there?

Rebecca:    I started in the city, working at Linklaters, which was, I suppose, a kind of intellectually ambitious thing. It was about starting with, I suppose, the biggest, thinking that I would learn a lot there. Actually, one of the biggest pieces of learning for me during that period of time was that I started volunteering at a local law centre, and chaired it for a while. 

And I got a huge amount out of that. Not least of course because, if you work in that area of law, you get a lot of responsibility. Whereas, as a trainee in a big city firm, you do an awful lot of photocopying and you get more responsibility and you get involved with real people, in law centres.

And then, of course, I had a career break and, as you say, I got very involved in building schools. And I think what I fell in love with there was the idea of public policy and not just kind of law for, I suppose, adding wealth to corporates, but working with people in a community endeavour. I really got terribly interested in the whole legal infrastructure of schools and educational policy and education law. 

And that took me, eventually, after I’d had far too many children in a short period of time, to getting a job in the Legal Advisor’s Office for the Department for Education. And that was really coming out of my involvement with schools. 

And, when I went to the DfE, I thought I was going to be an education lawyer but of course I didn’t, because you end up moving around within government, and what you're really learning is how to be a public lawyer, how to be a government lawyer. 

And I stayed there until I left, I took a secondment out, to become Chief Executive of a charity called LawWorks, which is the Solicitors Pro Bono Group.

Rob:    Just explain to our listeners what a pro bono group does?

Rebecca:    It’s a very interesting question. What LawWorks does is it interfaces between solicitors who are offering their time without charge and community groups, charities, individuals, who can’t afford to pay and don’t qualify for legal aid. So, typically what LawWorks does is it offers triage, it runs clinics, it operates as the sort of interface, to make it easier for people to offer their time.

Rob:    So, pro bono would be free to the service-user?

Rebecca:    To the user, correct. There’s a lot of firms which want to offer those programmes to their staff, (a) because it’s obviously good to make a contribution, (b) because it’s good marketing, and (c) because it’s very developmental. And what LawWorks does is it kind of takes the sweat out of that and provides opportunities. 

And I learnt an awful lot from that, both about subject matter, about helping people, about those areas of law and about leadership. And the wonderful thing about that is that, when there was a role advertised of Chief Legal Officer at the Equality Human Rights Commission, I was actually credible for it.

Rob:    Do you think you were suited to be being a civil servant?

Rebecca:    I suppose it depends what you mean by a civil servant. I mean, yes, I…

Rob:    When you worked for the Department for Education, for example.

Rebecca:    Yes. And I’m part of the broader Civil Service now, although obviously not in the narrow sense. I love the public sector. And I’ve worked in the private sector, public sector and the third sector, and I love the public sector. I love that feeling of being involved in the development of policy and contributing towards how society is run. There’s a professionalism also there, and a shared sense of endeavour. 

And I really enjoyed my time in government. I often look back and wonder why I left, except for there was an opportunity for learning that came up, that I think I wouldn’t quite have got in the Civil Service. 

Because the problem about Civil Service is government departments are so big, that if you want to learn about leadership, you're kind of always part of a bigger whole. And the advantage of running LawWorks is that it taught me something about leadership that I wasn't going to learn back in the Civil Service.

But working in an arm’s length body, like mine, I think in many ways it’s the best of all worlds.

Rob:    Although it’s a big responsibility, because you have to call the shots.

Rebecca:    Yes, but you work with your team, you learn how to listen, you learn how to try to improve. And it’s challenging. It’s an enormously… I think it’s a privilege, my job, because it’s so interesting, we cover so many important facets of life and we’re kind of really at the edge of how to make society a better place.

Rob:    So, when you joined the Human Rights Commission it was going through a transformation, I think that’s fair to say.

Rebecca:    I think it had been through some very difficult times.

Rob:    Yes.

Rebecca:    And that was, to be honest, one of the advantages, the attractions, of joining it. Because I’d hate the idea of working for a perfect organisation, because you would struggle to figure out how you could add value.

Rob:    I’ve not found one yet.

Rebecca:    (Laughter) And I was overwhelmed to get the role, it felt like my dream job and I was thrilled to get it. But I was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of what was I going to do. And then when I turned up, I realised how much needed to happen, and my ability to add to that was really exciting, actually.

Rob:    So, for those who aren’t familiar with the organisation, it has a huge mandate across equality and human rights, and a steadily diminishing budget, I think that’s fair to say.

Rebecca:    It’s very fair to say. I think, broadly speaking, we have about 25% of the budget that we were set up with, and we went through a very troubled time. We were established in 2006. And by 2010 to 2012, we’d lost three quarters of our budget, suffered mass resignations, had had our accounts qualified three years in succession. 

And I’m always quick to say I wasn't there then but, when I joined in 2014, those things were in the past but there was a real sense of bruising, I think, in the organisation. And I think, having been in quite a difficult place, it had moved into that place that organisations do, of slightly going into shutdown and being a bit too nervous and too cautious to do anything, in case somebody else got their knuckles rapped, if you like.

And also I think it’s fair to say that the organisation was set up in 2006 through the merger of three legacy commissions – equal opportunities, race and disability – with the added remit of human rights. But there hadn’t ever been a proper exercise to truly merge the commissions. 

When I joined in 2014, I went around asking everybody how long they’d worked at the Commission for, and what surprised me was how many people said enormous numbers, like 25 years, which I think was staggering anyway. But, of course, what particularly staggered me was the organisation was only seven years old. And I realised that, in their minds, they were kind of still working for the Commission for Racial Equality.

So, the work that we did, sort of around about 2016, after I became Chief Executive, was very much about really bringing people together and solidly forming that sense of identity as the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Rob:    Do you think there’s something a bit curious about, in the United Kingdom, we struggle to give resource and status to our principal human rights body, but everywhere else in Europe, those kinds of bodies have a lot of status, a lot of resource and quite a lot of power? Do you think that’s accidental or is it a reflection of our culture?

Rebecca:    I’m not necessarily sure that I agree with you. I think there are lots of different models and we work with lots of different networks. So, the ENHRI, which is the European Network of National Human Rights Institutes, and Equinet, which is the European Network of National Equality Bodies, and also the global equivalents. And in fact we chair the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutes.

So, we see a lot of different models, and some of them are ombudsman, much more like you than like us. Some of them are one or the other but aren’t both. Northern Ireland, for example, has a National Human Rights Commission and a National Equality Body, and they're separate. And there’s a whole science as to whether you should have one, both or the other or mixed. And there are all sorts of different shapes and sizes.

But I would say that one of the heartening, or positive, things that we do from time to time is step outside the UK and refresh our understanding of how we are viewed internationally. Because the Equality and Human Rights Commission has a huge national – international, rather – reputation, in terms of the quality of work we do, our influence. 

And while there are certainly other bodies that are bigger than us, there is an awful lot that are far smaller and far less resourced, and don’t have our powers either. And an example, which I think we might come on to later, is that we have a statutory duty to report every five years – in fact, we do it every three years – on the state of equality and human rights in the country. 

We call it ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ We measure what’s regressed and what’s improved since the last time we did this, in terms of outcomes. But I’ve spoken at international conferences where nobody else has that statutory duty and they would love to have a sort of ‘Is Germany Fairer?’, ‘Is France Fairer?’ but they don’t. 

So, we have a good range of powers. Yes, we don’t have as many as we had, because we have lost some over the years. We do have independence and we do have resource and we would like to have more, but I think we manage well with what we’ve got.

Rob:    Okay, just diverting specifically to that issue, on the basis of your research, what are the biggest obstacles to making Britain a fairer society?

Rebecca:    There’s quite a long answer to that question. I think… 2018 we last produced ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ which was a year ago now. And I think what we found was things had got better in some ways. So, in terms of proportion of population engaging in political life, in terms of education, attainment gaps in some ways, in terms of equality in the workplace in some ways. 

But there were some very significant entrenched disadvantages. So some groups, for example disabled groups, some ethnic minorities, we have found are suffering entrenched disadvantaged across the piece. So, you're looking at health and housing and employment and justice, on a sort of cumulative basis, with some really alarming stats.

For example, disability hate crime, we’d found had gone up 175% since the last time we’d measured it. Infant mortality has gone up for the first time since the 1990s. So, there are some really sharp end difficult stats there.

And the key of what we found was that that gap was widening between people who were actually doing better and people who were doing worse. And it’s looking difficult to see how you're going to get out of that without some quick and very determined interventions. 

I suppose one reason for that is the causes are quite multi-faceted. So, you’ve got successive governments, frankly, which haven't done enough to intervene. Yes, you’ve got responsibility on the part of employers. And yes, you’ve got a sort of a cultural gap there, you're looking at bullying in the workplace and hate crime levels and so on and so forth. But you’ve also got access to justice gaps. We’ve got a legal aid system that frankly just isn't really working very well.

So, the trouble is, you’ve got that entrenched gap and, when things go wrong and you're reaching out for remedy, that’s not an easy way out either, because you don’t really have access- If, for example, you’ve got a housing problem, it’s not very easy to get legal advice to address that anymore. So you're looking at things getting worse, instead of getting better.

And, by the way, if they get really, really bad indeed, and you end up in prison, the prison profile is not good. You're talking about two-thirds of adult prisons being overcrowded, really difficult stories around prisoners self-harming and violence escalating, and so on and so forth. So, a bit depressing.

Rob:    How easy is it to resource the organisation which requires so many different specialist skills?

Rebecca:    Our organisational theory of change, and we’ve done quite a lot of work, in terms of trying to understand how we can have an impact, how… And we hold ourselves to account for impact, for evaluating everything we do. There’s a really important piece that says ‘What works?’ We don’t have many resources, as you’ve said, and what we do has to count. 

So, we need to understand how we can have the greatest impact. And our theory of change says it’s about integration of our functions. So, we carry out research, we conduct enquiries, we conduct investigations, we take strategic legal cases. 

And, for all these things, we need lawyers, we need analysts, we need effective communication experts, we need researchers. And we need them all because, in order to make a really impactful intervention, we need to ensure they're all part of the work that we do. And, instead of doing isolated work, like a case over here or an enquiry over there.

An example of that perhaps is we did some work on sexual harassment, on the back of the #MeToo movement. So, we carried out some research and we looked at what that felt like to… I think from memory it was about 1,000 people who had experienced sexual harassment, what they’d done about it, how effective the complaint systems were and what reporting looked like.

We took up some strategic cases and we did a lot of work in enforcement, particularly around the President’s Lunch issue [a men-only fundraising dinner where female hostesses were allegedly groped]. I can’t remember if you remember that, and non-disclosure agreements. We made several calls for changes in the law around non-disclosure agreements and around providing a duty, an anticipatory duty, on employers, and having a statutory code of practice in that area.

And we also reported on the issue under the International Human Rights framework, in relation to the CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. And, in fact, that was very successful.That’s quite a long answer to your question, because we have now seen consultation on a change to the law.

And the government has said that it will look at laying a statutory code of practice, which we have drafted, and it’s looking at regulating on disclosure agreements.

And that has been a very impactful piece of work of ours, which has been precisely about drawing together different skills and different levers, to work in an integrated fashion.

Rob:    So, if we take sexual harassment, for example, is it the case that the problem for disabled women or black and ethnic minority women is worse when confronted with sexual harassment than for white women, for example?

Rebecca:    That’s a very interesting question, and one of the pieces of thinking that we’re doing at the moment is how we need to ensure that all the work that we carry out is, to the greatest extent possible, looked at through the intersectionality lens. 

But I would say, in particular in relation to sexual harassment, obviously the big concern about sexual harassment is to what extent is it holding women back in the workplace. And, when we conducted the research that I referred to, we found that a large number of women who made complaints of sexual harassment, were talking about behaviour that they were experiencing at the hands of a senior colleague.

So, when you combine that with not only the gender pay gap but also the disability pay gap and the ethnicity pay gap, what that all adds up to is you are more disempowered in the workplace because you're more likely to suffer these things at the hands of a senior colleague. And all the pay gaps show us that, actually, if you have one of those protected characteristics, you are much less likely to be in a senior position.

Rob:    We should also remember, of course, that men get sexually harassed as well. When I was a higher education ombudsman that was an issue. Not a big issue, but a significant issue, in a minority of cases, so that’s good.

Rebecca:    And some of the people who responded to our research were men who had suffered it, or had witnessed it.

Rob:    So, just briefly, what are the priorities for the EHRC at the moment?

Rebecca:    So, we are coming towards the end of the first year of our latest strategic plan, which we laid in Parliament at the start of this year, it will last for three years. We are very committed to making sure that this is about long-term work. So, although we have a duty to review our strategic plan every three years, we are hoping that will be a relatively light touch process, so that we can look at these streams of work on a more long-term basis.

We are very keen to prioritise, that’s what we’ve been told to do by our stakeholders, and that’s what we know we need to do. As you said, we have a very broad remit.

But the five priority aims that we came up with were: access to justice; fair and equal access to the labour market; an inclusive transport system; an education system that was inclusive and rights-respecting; and looking at a rights-respecting framework for institutions – entry into and treatment in them.

Those are our current five priority aims. In addition to that, we have what we call a ‘core aim’, which is about, if you like, the system of human rights and equality itself. 

So, (a) looking at where we need to take action, in order to shore up constitutional framework and, (b) ensuring that we use our enforcement powers so that, where we see egregious breaches. And you referred to the investigation of the Labour Party earlier – it’s kind of an example of how we would take action in that sort of example.

Rob:    And it’s no secret that human rights in Europe and outside Europe is under attack from a whole section of people who want to undermine it. Do you have any view about the way to champion and, effectively, uphold human rights, in the face of this rhetoric?

Rebecca:    It’s a huge challenge, isn't it? And I’ve heard it said that there is obviously a huge overlap between human rights and equality but, in human rights, it’s about understanding that other people have human rights, as well as you, even people who look different. And there are an awful lot of people who will sign up to the idea of human rights in theory, but it’s about how it works in practice, that they find challenging.

I think there are two approaches that we need to take. I think one of them is – and perhaps this is something that we need to learn from the lessons of the past – we need to approach it from a positive place and we need to express it in a values-driven way. 

And we need to use uplifting and engaging language, as opposed to telling people not to do things and telling them off. And that’s really how we’re going to connect with people and make them understand what it’s about, if you like.

And I think the other thing is about understanding your audience, as always. It’s about segmentation, understanding why this particular group is resistant, why this particular group finds it difficult. 

There is a number who are very much in favour of human rights and a small number who are opposed to it, and probably would be opposed to it, whatever you say and do. So, you’ve got to understand who you're talking to and where their perspective is, and then address it, in as positive a way as you can.

Rob:    Given your family background, there must be a tendency for you, quite a lot, to look at the past and wonder what we can learn from that, as far as your operational practice is about at work. Would that be fair, or not? Is that a romantic view?

Rebecca:    I suppose the two things I take from the past are these – one is that I do think we, all of us, need to do a better job at understanding other people. I mean, we all have protected characteristics and, as a member of the Jewish community in the 21st Century, we’re all aware of what happens when things go wrong. Other people have different stories, and we need to stop thinking that we’ve got the only story.

And, in fact, if you come from a background which says, “We’ve seen people suffer, we’ve seen people die,” that gives you a better understanding of somebody else, as opposed to thinking, “Actually, I’ve got the market on suffering,” that’s not a good approach. 

But I think what I take away from my own sort of community history, if you like, is that the Holocaust, the Second World War, shows you what happens when you really don’t have a framework at all, when there is no respect for the fundamentals. 

We have seen only too recently what man can do to man. And it was a generation ago, we’re losing the very, very last survivors of the Holocaust. And I think what happens when you lose the survivors, is it is so easy to forget. It’s so easy to blur the edges. 

And I think we’ve seen a lot of conflicts recently, we’ve seen a lot of people moving away from ideals of human rights. And we’ve seen people, I think, begin to take things for granted. And I think people are beginning to forget. 

I think, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, it would have been impossible to say and believe and do some of the things that we’re seeing happening now, on the streets of capital cities across the world. So, the thing is the memory gap, and that’s what we are going to have to address.

Rob:    Yes. I’ve been to some places in Africa, where they address that issue by tying it with more modern massacres. In Rwanda, for example, to make sure that people understand the immediacy of it. So, that’s interesting.

We’re coming towards the end, I’ve got three more questions for you. We couldn’t have this discussion without talking a little bit about Brexit. Are there equality and human rights implications for Brexit?

Rebecca:    Of course there are implications for equality and human rights. I think the biggest one is that, as and when we come out of Europe, we will lose an awful lot of underpinning. So, there are things that are the way they are in our infrastructure because of European directives that say you have to have these things. There are parts of the Equality Act that owe their existence to European law and so on and so forth.

So, the first question is, are we going to hold onto these things, once we move away from Europe? Because the opportunity is there, there are also things that hold us back under European law. So, one example is procurement which, under European law, you can’t use procurement laws to favour positive action to one group over another, which you might want to, in relation to looking at equality of opportunity.

But that first thing is, yes, losing the underpinning. The second thing is we’re losing the European Charter of Fundamental Human Rights. And there are gaps there, in terms of what we have domestically and what we will lose, including procedural rights but not just procedural rights.

We need to look at what international trade agreements are going to look like, how we ensure that Britain will hold onto that place. It’s always been a world leader in human rights, it’s always been at the forefront of legislative development. We always say that it was British lawyers who drafted the European Convention Universal Declaration.

When Brexit was first mooted, three years ago, there were a lot of people in Europe who were saying, “But, you know, we owe all these laws to you. You guys were the ones who put them together.” So, there’s something about how we stay part of that narrative, how we don’t get left behind, how we ensure that we are still a fair and free place to do business. And how we ensure that we stay in the vanguard of all these things. Do I mean vanguard? But anyway, you know what I mean.

Rob:    Yes. Okay, thank you for that. I’ll just ask you a question about the role of the ombudsman. When I go around Europe, a lot of my colleagues have the human rights mandate tied into their ombudsman mandate. Catalonia comes to mind, as a very sore and current example of that. Poland, as well. I think Hungary. That’s not been the tradition in the United Kingdom, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. 

I don’t think the existence of your agency stops the ombudsman from looking at human rights questions, and I want that to be a key feature of our new strategic plan from 2021 onwards. Do you think that’s a good idea, or are you happy that your agency has that covered, and it’s not necessary for us to do that?

Rebecca:    No, I think it’s a very excellent idea, for lots of reasons. I mean, obviously we have a limited size and resource, and there is no way that we can be solely responsible for human rights across the country, the essence of how we work is partnership. And our relationship with what we call ‘RIOs’ – regulators, inspectorates and ombudsmen – is absolutely central to how we work, and it’s about sharing, understanding and expertise. 

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission developed a manual for ombudsmen, which I’m sure you're aware of, on human rights.

Rob:    Yes.

Rebecca:    And that is exactly how we need to be working. We’ve provided training, we have an advice-to-advisors line, where we try to provide ombudsmen with better understanding of expert areas. But ombudsmen are in a fantastic place, to be able to look at these things on a case-by-case basis. We tend to be more strategic. Ombudsman are looking at it very much on the ground.

And those two things meet. Because you're able to establish trends, you're able to be able to share information of what’s going on, on the ground. And we’re able to look at strategic issues and then sort of bring them down and establish precedent.

So, I see it as a fantastic partnership. And I couldn’t be more delighted, if you're looking to embed that in your strategic plan.

Rob:    That’s good to hear. So, my last question is this, and again it reverts to the traditional way of Radio Ombudsman. We have a lot of very good young graduates working for us, we have a lot of very old graduates also working for us, but what advice would you give to young people coming into the ombuds profession, in terms of your experience of dealing with human rights over such a long period?

Rebecca:    Well, I’ll give you two answers. One is perhaps more specific than the other. So, my specific answer is I think that it’s a fantastic place to be. I think it’s never been more important, in a way, to work in the sort of field that you're working in, in terms of looking at making services better, getting better outcomes for people and looking at embedding human rights at the heart of public service delivery.

So, I think people coming in should feel that they're doing the right thing. They're in the right place, and they're making a contribution, which I think is about the most motivational thing you can have, in place of your career.

My more general piece of advice, which is advice I freely dish out to anybody who is foolish enough to ask me for career advice, is just keep aiming high. You should never ever apply for a job that you think you can do.

Because it will bore you silly. You will just stay in a sort of stasis for the rest of your life, if you keep on applying for things you can do. And apply for jobs that you think you probably have the potential to go into, and scare yourself silly. And, that way, you will grow and make an even better contribution to a really important place.

Rob:    Thank you for that. We’ll make sure people hear that loud and clear. It’s been wonderful to have you, thank you very much for your time.

Rebecca:    Thank you, Rob, it’s really great to be here.