Black Cabinet Office civil servant receives six-figure pay off amid 'systemic' racism concern

A former civil servant who said he had been racially abused has called for PACAC to investigate the department
A former deputy cabinet secretary has warned there are "systemic issues" in the department

By Tevye Markson

07 Feb 2022

A black civil servant received a six-figure settlement from the Cabinet Office over racial discrimination allegations and is now calling for an investigation into the department.

Kay Badu, 36, said he had been bullied by white managers during his three years at the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service, leaving him with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and contemplating suicide at one point, The Independent's race correspondent Nadine White has revealed.

Badu, who joined the GDS in 2018 as an executive assistant, said he was held back from promotion and described incidents including a manager had used the n-word and being asked in front of colleagues why “some black people play the race card when they get in trouble”.

Another colleague said black people did not get top jobs in Whitehall because they were not intelligent enough, Badu said, while he was also told by a manager to be careful around one colleague as she had previously been attacked by a black man.

Badu complained to HR and senior staff but said nothing was done until he spoke out at a staff meeting and raised concerns with the Cabinet Office’s chief operating officer.

After raising complaints, Badu said he became “public enemy number one” and was investigated himself, with internal investigators later concluding this should not have happened.

The Cabinet Office reached a settlement in September 2021 with Badu, who left his role at GDS the same month. Badu said he was suffering from depression, anxiety and insomnia at the time, while an occupational health assessment found a high score on a post-traumatic stress disorder scale. He is still receiving counselling.

Badu said his perpetrators have not been punished and continue to hold managerial positions within the civil service.

He is now calling for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to investigate the Cabinet Office, saying: “Yes, I settled, but I’ve lost a career haven’t I? Essentially, working in the civil service, the Cabinet Office, is a job for life, and I’ve had to leave while the culprits are still there, walking around.”

"How many generations have to go through this? My mum was racially abused at work. I was racially abused at work. So when I have kids, are they going to be racially abused at work as well? When is this going to stop?”

Former deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara wrote to Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm to raise concerns about the case and what it says about the department.

Dame MacNamara, also a former director general for propriety and ethics at the Cabinet Office, said there was a “striking absence of compassion” in the way Badu was treated and a “systemic issue” in the department.

Badu said the situation will not change until there are permanent secretaries from an ethnic minority background.

“The entire ordeal has been emotionally draining, absolutely exhausting,” Badu said, describing how it affected his sleep, social life and diet.

"I would classify myself as a survivor of the Cabinet Office; if you’re Black or Asian, that’s what you do. You don’t go to work to thrive – you survive.”

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: "“We condemn racism and bullying in all forms and there are strict measures in place within the Cabinet Office to make sure effective action is taken if complaints are raised."

The department said it reached the settlement without admitting liability and does not accept a number of the claims made by Badu.

Last April, the PCS union said it was consdering legal action after more than 80 black staff members in the civil service have raised concerns about racism and bullying.

A black civil servant reportedly tried to take their own life after “prolonged racial bullying” in a government department.

The Cabinet Office launched a “respect and inclusion” review last year amid accusations of racism as and discrimination towards disabled staff.

There are also concerns about recruitment, with white applicants to the Civil Service Fast Stream three times more likely to be successful than those from black backgrounds, according to the latest figures.

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