Action plan to diversify UK civil services

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood during an event

The UK government launched a “Talent Action Plan” to help remove barriers to BME representation in the Civil Service

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood during an event
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood during an event

The British government’s new “Talent Action Plan: removing the barriers to success”, includes practical actions to remove the obstacles which have limited the numbers of those with black or minority ethnic backgrounds joining the Civil Service and reaching its highest levels. A central plank of the Government’s ongoing Civil Service Reform programme, the Plan sets out to build a world-class Civil Service, fit for the 21stcentury, where the most talented people succeed and reach the top positions, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability. Although the percentage of minority ethnic civil servants has increased from 5.6% in 1999 to 9.6% in 2013, the Plan says there is much more to be done, particularly to make sure that more of the brightest BME staff reach the Senior Civil Service (SCS).

In addition, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude is commissioning new research to examine the barriers faced by those with BME backgrounds. The results of this research, expected within the coming months, will be used to form an updated Talent Strategy within the coming year.

Measures in the Talent Action Plan include:

  • Making diversity and inclusion learning part of the formal induction process for all civil servants.All managers will be required to take an online course on “unconscious bias”. A new race awareness e-learning product will be available by year end to support employees and line managers, challenge prejudice, handle complaints of racism and remove barriers to progression.
  • Doubling the number of places available on the Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme to 400 in 2015/16.By offering an alternative to the higher education route into the Civil Service, this scheme helps us reach a broader talent pool. Currently, 16% of Fast Track apprentices are from BME backgrounds.
  • Requiring all departments to nominate board-level diversity champions with the power to drive change
  • Identifying and championing role models in the Senior Civil Service with diverse backgrounds
  • Reviewing recruitment practices that can act as barriers to some groups.
  • Promoting success and achievements and sharing best practice across the Civil Serviceon all aspects of diversity and inclusion. We will also benchmark our performance against the best in the wider public, private, voluntary and charitable sectors.  We will do this through ongoing membership of the recognised professional bodies, including Race for Opportunity and the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion.
  • Requiring the most senior civil servants to mentor one or more junior official. The focus will be on mentoring underrepresented groups, to help them put in place clear development plans to reach their full potential. The Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) “Growing Talent” programme will provide minority ethnic employees at Grade 6/7 level with high-level mentoring and leadership skills.


Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude
Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “To deliver excellent public services for hardworking families we need the best civil servants. But for too long, too many talented people have not had the opportunity to reach their full potential in the Civil Service. We are now examining the actual barriers faced by people from minority ethnic backgrounds and will address them. We want the very best to succeed in the Civil Service, whoever they are – it’s all part of our long-term plan for a stronger economy.”

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said: “There is a strong moral and business case for a Civil Service workforce that truly reflects the society it serves. We have made good progress, but we can do better. This new Talent Action Plan restates our commitment – as a central plank of the Civil Service talent strategy – to build an inclusive and diverse Civil Service, with equal opportunities for all, and sets out new measures to ensure we recruit and develop civil servants on no other basis than their ability to do the job.”

Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office, and the Civil Service Diversity Champion for BME, said: “In a truly inclusive Civil Service, we will recruit the best people and those we recruit will thrive – whoever they are.  As the Civil Service BME Champion, I’m particularly keen to know why some groups and communities are under-represented in the Civil Service, and what barriers there are to the career progression of civil servants from ethnic minorities.  This plan contains some concrete actions.  For example, we’ll be requiring all managers to take training for unconscious bias: are our appointment, promotion or assessment decisions influenced by colour, gender, accent or social background? And this plan is just the start: as our knowledge and experience grows, actions and benchmarks will follow. ”

The Talent Action Plan suggests that previous attempts to address diversity, particularly at senior levels of the Civil Service, had limited success because they did not deal with the actual issues. For example: why are relatively few of the many talented Fast Streamers who are from a minority ethnic background – some 12.6% of those recruited in the last three years – promoted  to the higher grades?

The solution, it says, is first to understand the barriers groups including BME communities continue to face and then set about removing them.

That is why the Government has commissioned the most comprehensive research to date into the challenges facing four groups: women; ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; and the disabled. The Talent Action Plan will be refreshed within the next 12 months, with additional actions as necessary, once the findings of all four reports are available.

Sajid Javid
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP interacting with children


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