Civil service could still do better on diversity

2004

Whitehall needs to get better at ensuring it has a diverse workforce if it wants its public services to meet their full potential, a Government watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office said more could be done to respond to Britain’s increasingly diverse society and services could be better tailored to the needs of diverse groups.

The report surveyed 131 government bodies, assessing their performance under each of the Government’s six key diversity strands: disability, gender, race, religion and belief, age and sexual orientation.

It also interviewed public sector staff and those that use services. Knowledge of customer diversity, the diversity of the workforce and success in meeting diverse needs tended to go hand in hand, it concluded.

As a whole, the civil service was broadly representative of the wider population. But there was still much that could be done at senior grade level.

Yet even here, while far from being as representative, senior level management was making “steady progress” on its targets for increasing the percentage of women and people from ethnic minorities, said the NAO.

There were particular challenges in improving the workforce representation for disabled people, the NAO warned, with a shortfall in the ratio between disabled staff and the wider population at all grades.

Some 13.6 per cent of the economically active population of the UK are disabled in some way; but only 2.3 per cent of the senior civil service had declared they were disabled.

NAO head Sir John Bourn said: “Tailoring public services to address diverse needs can be seen as important, not simply as a moral end it itself, but also to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public services by making sure they actually benefit all those they are designed to serve.”