Civil Service Fast Stream under fire for low black Caribbean recruits

Windrush scandal turns spotlight on numbers shortfall with high-fliers programme

Dawn Butler. Credit: David Mirzoeff/PA 

By Jim Dunton

01 May 2018

Shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler has described the low numbers of black Caribbean candidates winning places on the Civil Service Fast Stream programme as “profoundly shocking” in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

National outrage at the treatment of members of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the West Indies has prompted new interest in data on how people from Caribbean backgrounds fare on the civil service’s flagship high-fliers recruitment programme.

The latest annual report on the scheme – which gives data for 2016 – shows that none of the 1,245 places offered to applicants went to a candidate who identified themselves as from a black Caribbean background, and only six went to applicants who said their heritage was mixed black Caribbean and white.


A total of 339 candidates describing themselves as black Caribbean sought places on the programme's 2016 intake, double the number of any during the previous five years. However in 2014 and 2015 three black Caribbean candidates were recommended for appointment, up from one in each of the previous two years. Conversely, 20,536 candidates describing themselves as white British applied for Fast Stream places, of whom 903 were recommended for appointment.

The 2016 figures – which were only published in February this year – showed that 219 candidates who said they had mixed black Caribbean and white heritage applied for roles, a higher number than for any of the previous five years. During that time there was one other year when six candidates of mixed Caribbean heritage were recommended for appointment.  

Labour MP Dawn Butler called on prime minister Theresa May to explain the figures and the steps being taken to deal with the low levels of Caribbean recruitment as a matter of urgency.

“It is profoundly shocking that not a single one of the 339 black Caribbean people who applied to the Civil Service Fast Stream in 2016 was accepted and that the success rate for this group has fallen way behind their white counterparts in every year since 2010,” she said.

“These figures reveal a staggering lack of progress on tackling racial inequality in our country and in government, and a deep rooted bias in selection procedures.

"Far from tackling burning injustices, inequality and a failure to address institutional racism lie at the heart of Theresa May’s government.”

Steve Littlewood, Fast Stream lead at the FDA union, agreed the figures were “shocking” and demonstrated that more needed to be done on diversity within the Fast Stream.

“We’ve done some outreach with universities that seems to be helping to push up the numbers of people from different backgrounds coming into the applications system,” he said.

“What we need to do now is to make sure that there isn’t a problem with their applications being rejected.”

A 2016 report to the Cabinet Office by the Bridge Group consultancy described the Fast Stream intake as “unrepresentative of the population at large” and pointed out that its intake for the previous year had featured just 4.4% of successful applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds.

It said the finding made the Fast Stream “less diverse than the student population at the University of Oxford”. The civil service launched a new programme aimed at making the Fast Stream more representative of the nation as a whole for the 2017 intake.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said schemes were in place to rectify its recruitment issues within schools and universities, with further measures planned for it to become “the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020”.

They added: “This government believes in a country which works for everyone, which is why we have invested in making the Fast Stream and the Fast Track Apprenticeship Programme more accessible, inclusive and appealing to candidates from all backgrounds over the past two years.”

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