Fast Stream making progress on diversity

New report shows rise in successful applications to graduate scheme from black and minority ethnic candidates, but slight dip in proportion of women accepted onto the programme

Recruitment to the civil service's Fast Stream graduate programme is becoming more diverse on a number of fronts, according to new figures published by the Cabinet Office.

The figures – included in the government's latest annual report on the scheme – show that the Fast Stream recorded its highest-ever proportion of successful applications from black and minority ethnic (BME) candidates in 2013.

According to the report, 19.4% of all applications to the scheme in 2014 came from BME graduates, up from 18% the previous year. Of those applications, 14.2% were successful, a rise of 0.6% on 2013's figures.

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However, while the overall success rate for BME candidates in the overall pool of applicants – 3.6% – is the second-highest on record, it remains below the success rate for white applicants, which stands at 4.8%.​

The report records year-on-year progress in boosting the representation of disabled graduates, with 5.2% of disabled people who applied being accepted onto the scheme, up from 4.5% in 2013.

Candidates identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) were, according to the report, also more successful than their heterosexual/straight counterparts in 2014.

While there are no comparable figures for previous years – 2014 marks the first time information on sexual orientation has been included by the Cabinet Office – the report shows that the success rate of LGB applicants was 6.3%, compared to 4.3% for those identifying as straight/heterosexual. LGB graduates represented 6% of the total pool of applicants.

Women fared slightly worse this year, however. While 48.3% of total applications came from women in 2014 – a rise of over 2% on the previous year – there was a dip in the representation of women among those candidates who went on to win places.

In 2014, women represented 48% of the successful applicants, down from 50.1% in 2013.

"More reflective"

Overall, there were almost 25 applications for every Fast Stream place awarded in 2014. 

Responding to the report – published in the week the Fast Stream opened to the next wave of civil service hopefuls – Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said Whitehall was striving to become "more reflective of those we serve".

He added: "Nobody should be defined by the circumstances of their birth and a one nation civil service will help every young person who joins the chance to reach their full potential."

The report comes after cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood promised a "relentless" focus on improving diversity in Whitehall in the wake of three independent studies which warned that civil servants from under-represented groups still faced significant barriers in moving up the career ladder.

In June, the National Audit Office spending watchdog said that the new version of the civil service's "Talent Action Plan" – launched in response to findings of the three reports – was still lacking "clear measurable outcomes" that would be needed to "track progress and help sustain momentum" on boosting minority representation.

Read the most recent articles written by Sarah Aston & Matt Foster - Civil service 'prejudice' a barrier to promotion, say officials from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds

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