DfT’s level of BAME staff “unchanged” for a decade, new figures show

New report suggests a proportional headcount that is half the civil service-wide average

By Jim Dunton

24 Feb 2017

Statistics published by the Department for Transport suggest the ministry and its agencies have failed to increase the overall proportion of staff from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds over the past 10 years.

Data in the department’s latest equality monitoring report for 2015-16 indicates that while progress is being made to increase the employment of people with disabilities, just 5% of the overall DfT workforce describe themselves as from a BAME background.

Office for National Statistics figures published in October last year give a civil-service wide figure of 11.2% for the proportion of BAME staff.

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The overarching DfT figure levels out a differing picture across the central department and its agencies, which had a headcount of 13,691 as of the end of March last year.

The Swansea-based Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency accounted for around 6,000 of those staff, with 2,123 identified as working for the central department.

According to the monitoring report breakdown, 20% of the centrally employed staff described themselves as from a BAME, but the figure for the DVLA was just 1%. 

The report said that while there was “no significant trend in the proportion of BAME staff in DfT as a whole since 2007/08”, the proportion at DVLA was decreasing, while that in the central department was increasing.

It said that the proportions of BAME staff at DfT’s various operational bases was “similar” to that in the local working-age population, except for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where there were “disproportionately more BAME staff”.

Despite the positive BAME figure for DfT’s central operations, the report noted that staff who indicated they were from a non-white or ethnic background were “more likely” to work in lower grades, while just four of the department’s Senior Civil Service staff had described themselves as BAME. 

Helpfully for a department whose permanent secretary is the civil service’s disability champion, DfT’s figures for staff with disabilities show more annual progress than the race breakdown. Twelve percent of staff described themselves as disabled, up from 11% the previous year. October’s figures from the ONS gave a civil service wide figure of 9.2%.

The DfT’s monitoring report also notes declining tendency among staff to complete the ethnic background and disability section of the survey. 

It said that for the most recent data, just 66% of staff had declared their race and 71% their disability status, compared with rates of 90% and 89% for data collected in 2009.

The department acknowledged the existence of a data coding error that may have resulted in some staff being categorised as not having made a declaration about their race.

But no explanation was given for the “significant downward trend” in disability declaration rates, which DfT said was seen across all agencies apart from new-vehicle approval body the VCA.

Elsewhere, the report indicated that DfT and its agencies appeared to have disregarded a core element of the civil service’s controversial and performance management regime: the guided-distribution system.

Guided distribution requires managers to categorise 25% of their staff as performing well, 65% as middling, and 10% as performing poorly.

But the report said the distribution of ratings “varied significantly across agencies and job types” and cited a breakdown for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, where just 14% were awarded the top rating and only 1% the lowest.

A DfT spokesman said the department was "determined" to increase the diversity of its staff and was "constantly" trying to attract the best and brightest from the widest and most diverse talent pool.

“DfT diversity data includes staff from all our agencies," he said.

"These agencies are based in parts of the country where the levels of BAME people vary.”

This story was updated at 15:40 on February 24 to include a response from the Department for Transport

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