Defra perm sec appointed first civil service faith champion

Clare Moriarty led the scoping work on faith and belief for the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Photo: Paul Heartfield

By Tamsin Rutter

10 Nov 2017

Clare Moriarty, the permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since 2015, has been appointed the new civil service faith and belief champion.

Moriarty, who led the scoping work to determine the faith element of the recently launched Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, will represent the interests of staff of all faiths and beliefs and promote interfaith dialogue.


In a letter to permanent secretaries seen by Civil Service World, Sir Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, said Moriarty would provide a leadership voice to faith and belief.

“Our inclusion activities need to resonate with colleagues’ experience of the workplace, and during the development of [the diversity] strategy, our staff engagement found that faith and belief were aspects of personal identity that up until now have not been properly recognised,” he said. 

According to her biography, Moriarty has “a long-standing interest in leadership, change and diversity” and is a member of the Westminster Abbey Institute Council of Reference, and the Advisory Council of the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy.

Shortly after joining Defra, the perm sec told CSW that one of her goals was to make the organisation “somewhere that people want to work… [where] everyone feels heard, valued and respected”.

She has also written a series of civil service blogs on the theme of inclusion, including encouraging employees to share more about themselves at work, and on the value of showing vulnerability as a leader.

Defra has historically had a reputation for low morale, though under Moriarty’s stewardship the department’s score for employee engagement in the Civil Service People Survey increased from 50% to 56% between 2015 and 2016. The overall civil service score was 59% last year.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Faith and belief are aspects of personal identity that we must recognise to ensure that the civil service achieves its aim of becoming the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020.

"Clare is committed and passionate about building an equal, diverse and inclusive civil service and will become part of the wider group of permanent secretary diversity champions to help drive this ambition forward.”

The diversity strategy, which sets out a series of measures to help the civil service achieve its stated aim of becoming the most inclusive employer by 2020 – including by defining what that means in practice – pledges to create a working environment that values staff regardless of their protected characteristics, including their faith or beliefs. 

It says: “We will improve faith and belief literacy within the civil service in order to create a truly inclusive culture where people of all faiths and beliefs, and none, are able to bring their whole selves to work.”

The strategy also commits to creating an inter-faith and belief network group, and to work collaboratively to develop a civil service-wide approach to faith and belief literacy.

One area in which the civil service is already adopting more faith-friendly practices is with its security policy, according to the strategy. 

The Home Office Sikh Association worked with the department to update guidance on access controls following “a security incident where a high-profile guest was unhappy to be asked to remove his articles of faith, including his kirpan (a small ceremonial sword), as this contravenes Sikh edict”. The association is now working with the Cabinet Office to align security policy across the civil service. 

Moriarty is one of six civil service diversity champions, including Melanie Dawes, perm sec at the Department for Communities and Local Government and gender champion; Jon Thompson, HM Revenue and Customs chief executive and social mobility champion; Philip Rutnam, Home Office permanent secretary and disability champion; Sue Owen, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport perm sec and LGBTI champion; and Richard Heaton, Ministry of Justice perm sec and race champion.

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