Civil servants could be asked to list parents' jobs as Matt Hancock launches new social mobility drive

Written by Jim Dunton on 24 March 2016 in News
News

Departments to spearhead use of HR metrics, and target apprenticeships and internships at working class kids, as Cabinet Office updates its diversity Talent Action Plan

Matthew Hancock MP

A raft of new commitments designed to boost the civil service’s intake of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds has been launched by Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock.

Among the pledges is the development of a new set of metrics to track employees’ backgrounds and monitor social mobility in the civil service, as well as across a range of private sector firms.

Hancock said the common national standard could include reference to parents’ profession, home postcode at the age of 14, and whether a worker ever received free school meals. He said 150 large employers, including the likes of Barclays, Deloitte, and O2, had also signed up to the project.


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The civil service’s just-published refresh of its diversity Talent Action Plan said the new metrics could be introduced as soon this autumn to monitor the progress of all apprenticeship starts, as well as applications to corporate talent programmes.

Hancock said the move would help to bypass what he described as a British reluctance to discuss social backgrounds at work.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” he said. “The civil service is determined to lead the way on social mobility, which is why we are going to work with major private sector employers to develop a national measure for social mobility so we can take action and break down barriers to employment.”

Earlier this year the Cabinet Office published the findings of a report, commissioned from consultancy the Bridge Group, aimed at understanding why just 4.4% of successful applicants to Whitehall’s prestigious graduate scheme hail from low socio-economic backgrounds.

It found “low levels of awareness of the Fast Stream amongs lower SEB students”, with the programme seen as both “attractive and intimidating” to students from poorer backgrounds.

The civil service has already committed to regionalise its selection process for Fast Stream candidates, but among the moves proposed in today’s action plan are shortening its timescale “from 18-31 weeks to no more than 12 weeks”.

Other new actions to promote social mobility include specifically targeting apprenticeship opportunities at those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and increasing the use of internships and work experience for young people from poorer backgrounds.

Also included is a commitment to target outreach work at universities with a high proportions of students from working-class backgrounds.
Additionally, the action plan calls for each government department to have a plan for improving socio-economic diversity, with accountability resting at permanent-secretary level.

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood admitted there was “a long way to go” for the civil service to meet its commitment to be the country’s most inclusive employer. But he said the action plan detailed the steps that “ensure the civil service truly represents modern Britain”.

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Charles McDowall (not verified)

Submitted on 24 March, 2016 - 15:10
Recruitment, as currently structured, offers a very slow and cumbersome process designed to recruit those who can describe and talk about the process of doing their job very well. It therefore stacks the odds against people who are task oriented or socially challenged. Those who had the privilege of watching 'Employ Me' on the television last night would have been confronted by two people who have stunning skills in their area of capability but would have been wholly unrecruitable in the normal Civil service process (one with Turettes and one Autistic). At a time when, as a nation, we are moving ever closer to 'full employment' (when vacancies = unemployed), it is really important we find ways to extend our ability to spot talent and bring it in. If we do spot talent that is outside the normal structure and elmploy it, we need a really good way of describing what we are doing so that the 'normalists', if I may cal them that, do not cry 'foul!' in terms of 'active discrimination' 'quotas' or 'unfair recruitment'.

Charles Perry (not verified)

Submitted on 30 March, 2016 - 15:11
There is a wealth of over looked talent already in the civil service. This talent, in my experience, continues to be marginalised because it doesn't fit into the civil service "square pegs in square holes". Until the civil service addresses what's going on its own back yard, bringing in external talent will only be celebrated as "a new initiative" and end up being marginalised in the usual way - and leaving the civil service.

Charles Perry (not verified)

Submitted on 30 March, 2016 - 15:12
There is a wealth of over looked talent already in the civil service. This talent, in my experience, continues to be marginalised because it doesn't fit into the civil service "square pegs in square holes". Until the civil service addresses what's going on its own back yard, bringing in external talent will only be celebrated as "a new initiative" and end up being marginalised in the usual way - and leaving the civil service.

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