A crossroads for diversity and inclusion in the civil service

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Madeleine Bishop

December 7, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at how the Cabinet Office can give government departments guidance and support on D&I plans.

In February 2022 the Cabinet Office published a new diversity and inclusion strategy for the civil service. Drawing on private roundtables and interviews with key figures from public sector organisations, this report considers the current state of diversity and inclusion within the civil service and assesses the approach of its new D&I strategy. The 2022 strategy represents a change in direction compared to its predecessors, placing greater emphasis on socio-economic background and for the first time incorporating the geographic location and professional background of civil servants under a new, broader definition of workforce diversity. But it also lacks specific objectives, targets and guidance needed to improve representation based on protected characteristics. IfG analysis of government data shows that, on measures of sex, ethnicity and disability, the civil service is becoming more representative of the public. However, it finds that officials from a range of different backgrounds feel they have faced barriers to progression at work based on their class, ethnicity or other demographic factors, with many civil servants feeling that their backgrounds and experiences are not valued in government.

This report calls on the Cabinet Office to give government departments guidance and support to shape and coordinate their own D&I plans – and set clear targets for the recruitment, retention and progression of staff from underrepresented backgrounds. Its other recommendations include: – Recognising where work still needs to be done on protected characteristics such as ethnicity, disability and gender – Building on existing plans to improve socio-economic diversity in the civil service by supporting lower grade staff working in delivery to gain policy experience – Setting out specific measures for improving inclusion at work that will be researched and trialled within the civil service. – Reporting publicly on progress against the objectives set out in the strategy using the new machinery set up to monitor delivery internally – as well as monitoring and reporting publicly on departments’ progress against their own D&I plans.