Civil Service has a problem with race

25th Sep 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

One of Britain’s first Black civil servants has accused the service of having a “passive attitude” towards race equality policy in Government.

Callton Young, 55, headed the Parliamentary Bill Team at the Home Office tasked with amending the Race Relations Act 1976 to apply anti-discrimination laws to policing.

Speaking at a conference organised by the race think tank, The Runnymede Trust last month, Youn said: “In my view, race equality policy across the civil service and the wider public sector, the problem is not lack of policy direction, resources or options, rather it’s a problem of poor attitude and behaviour towards race equality.”

Speaking from experience, he explained candidly about the difficulties of pushing race equality laws. He continued: “No other policy that I’ve dealt with in Whitehall has been more difficult to get through, where you may get ministers agreeing to the policy but officials then try to frustrate – never seen anything like it in my life.”

Young spoke briefly of some of the prejudices he had faced and also recognised that gains made during his tenure had been quickly eroded since his voluntary retirement in 2011.

“When I first came in there were no senior civil people on the inside who could fully empathise with the communities on the outside which it was trying to help,” Young added.

The number of visible black and ethnic minority (BAME) senior civil servants has fallen dramatically with a fraction of the number that there once was.

Last year’s data reveals minorities made up just 3.7 percent of the top level of the civil service, compared to 8.3 per cent of senior business roles in FTSE 100 companies.

Young’s views are supported by a Government report published in March which concluded that BAME civil servants believe they face routine discrimination by an “old boys’ network” running Whitehall.

The study, commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood and the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, found that BAME staff got lower marks in performance reviews, do not always have equal access to promotion, and don’t feel they work for an organisation that is “open, fair and inclusive”.

Even BAME officials who make it to the senior ranks felt it was largely because “their face did fit” the mould in other ways – like attending Oxbridge or having middle-class parents.

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