GCS launches diversity strategy as figures reveal BAME recruits occupy 12 per cent of comms roles

Concern at lack of diversity within the Government Communication Service (GCS) has prompted the launch of a new outreach programme targeting secondary school pupils in a bid to improve the mix of backgrounds in the department.

The GCS diversity strategy aims to address the lack of people from BAME backgrounds working in government comms
The GCS diversity strategy aims to address the lack of people from BAME backgrounds working in government comms
Details of the move are revealed in the GCS Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for 2017/18, launched by Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, Cabinet Office and chair of the GCS board. 

The strategy "commits the Government Communication Service to recruit, promote, train and support a diverse and inclusive profession," said the minister.




The strategy noted: "The 2016 People Survey results for the function show that the GCS is one of the leading professions on inclusivity and fair treatment."

But it warned: "Further work needs to take place on discrimination, and bullying and harassment."

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that just 12 per cent of civil servants working in comms roles are from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, while the male/female split is 42 and 58 per cent respectively. Less than one in ten (eight per cent) are disabled.

Having greater diversity is not an optional extra, according to Skidmore: "Diversity is more than just an organisational goal; it is a personal commitment from all members of our profession and from our professional governing bodies."

One of the GCS diversity champions, Sam Lister, director of communications, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, commented: "Our ambition is to make GCS the ‘go to’ employer of choice so that we can attract and retain the most talented people – regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or disability."
Although specific numeric targets are notable by their absence from the strategy, it does contain a raft of commitments. 
One key objective is to attract children from poor backgrounds to consider becoming civil servants.

Our ambition is to make GCS the ‘go to’ employer of choice so that we can attract and retain the most talented people – regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or disability.

Sam Lister, director of communications, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
 
The strategy called for "a schools outreach programme targeting Year 11 and Year 12 students from lower socio-economic communities across the UK to attract them to a career in the Civil Service. We are currently piloting this in schools across London and Newcastle before a planned roll out from autumn 2017."

Year 12 pupils will participate in an interactive ‘crisis communications’ simulation exercise "to experience what it is like to be a government communicator".

Recent progress includes one in five of BAME applicants successfully securing jobs through the GCS recruitment for "entry level talent".

And a new GCS diversity internship programme, launched last year for students from BAME, socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, or care leavers, will have 28 people on it this summer. 

In addition, 30 apprentices will join the GCS in October, of which 43 per cent are BAME, more than double the 2016 intake.

Looking forward, key objectives between now and 2020 include improving diversity at the top levels of Whitehall, "to ensure that our Senior Civil Servants (SCS) are representative of the society we serve."

The GCS has also pledged "to improve BAME and women representation at all grades," and "attract and retain GCS early talent from lower socio-economic backgrounds."

In terms of specific commitments, it will work with the Office for Disability Issues to develop new guidance – to be published by October this year – on making government communications accessible. 

By next March, government communicators will be trained on accessibility to help them feel "confident and competent in producing accessible information," according to the strategy.

There will also be a drive to increase take up of ‘unconscious bias’ training for senior civil servants up to and including permanent secretary level.

Skidmore said diversity and inclusive policies and practices are "central to how we communicate government policy externally to the people we serve to make the UK a fairer and more equal place to live". 


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