Forward together: Diversity & Inclusion Awards celebrate civil service innovators

Gender, sexuality, religion and race champions get crucial recognition at Whitehall event


A DfID project to ensure the organisation meets the same high standards it expects of its partners and a Department for Education network that recognised improving social mobility starts on its own doorstep are among the winners of this year’s Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards.

The Department for International Development’s Sexual Harassment and Personal Safety Working Group was one of eight winners at the 2019 awards, picking up the Cabinet Secretary’s Inclusion Award.

Inspired by the #MeToo movement and the 2018 aid sector safeguarding scandal, DfID’s working group set out to drive a new conversation across the civil service to make sure Whitehall was at least matched – and strove to exceed – the standards it sought from others.


As part of its work, the group conducted an all-staff survey on sexual harassment in the civil service and used the evidence to help overhaul the department’s systems and guidance, securing commitments from senior leaders to ensure previously hidden issues were openly discussed and tackled.  

DfID said the approach had also been followed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Trade, with other ministries currently looking to follow suit.

Paul Young of HMRC was highly commended in the same category for his work volunteering on wellbeing initiatives within the HMRC guidance team to help colleagues who felt excluded. Paul recognised, following his own severe brain injury, how support from work is crucial, and the impact of support not being received. He has helped introduce changes, and experienced the positive benefits.

DfE’s Social Mobility Network picked up the Social Mobility Award at Friday’s event for a project that recognised the education department would be unlikely to succeed in improving its own social mobility performance if it did not first understand its current class-and-background make-up.

The network took an “expanding our knowledge through data” approach as an early priority workstream and worked to encourage an open conversation on “privilege”. The move and preparatory surveys meant the main staff survey on the social mobility issue netted more than 3,500 responses from which the department can measure its progress.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency Employability Skills Ambassadors was highly commended in this category for its programme which aims to help the agency use its position as one of the largest employers in Swansea to help improve the skills of a deprived area through the civil service’s commitment to remove barriers and discrimination, creating an inclusive culture where all have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

The Home Office’s Working Through Cancer Network, which works to help keep people in work when they are receiving cancer treatment, won the Championing Disability Inclusion Award, while HMRC’s Liverpool neurodiversity pilot was highly commended. In this scheme, Jane Culkin, an administrative officer in the department, spearheads efforts to make the office a great place to work for autistic colleagues, after witnessing an autistic colleague struggle because of the lack of awareness and understanding of their colleagues.

The Championing Faith and Belief Inclusion Award was won by Nuzhat Ali, a senior manager in the health improvement directorate at Public Health England. In the last 12 months Ali has led a series of successful creative events in PHE and with other faith networks across the civil service, including delivering an interfaith webinar on the theme of ‘mental wellbeing’.

The Civil Service Muslim Network was highly commended for its work in putting together an event in solidarity after the Christchurch terror attack at a mosque in March.

The Championing Gender Equality Award was won by the Department for Work and Pensions’ digital team for its role in leading the Digital Voices programme, intended to help women develop their digital skills and knowledge.

The creation of the gender equality group in the Defence Intelligence arm of the Ministry of Defence, was highly commended in this category. This is the first ever gender focused group in DI, representing a watershed in the organisation’s effort to create a more equitable workplace.

The Championing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) Inclusion Award was won by the Scottish Government’s LGBTI Staff Network in recognition of its work, which includes running LGBTI awareness induction training for staff, and supporting Scottish Government delegations to Pride marches.

Alice Pennicott, the leading champion for the pride in prison and probation scheme across the National Probation Service’s south east & eastern division since April 2017, was highly commended.

The Championing Race Equality Award was won by the Bristol Race Network in HMRC, which has made an outstanding contribution in championing HMRC’s ambition for a more inclusive workplace.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government HR’s senior civil service recruitment and talent team was highly commended for its work in ensuring that BAME talent is considered on all appointments. The team’s head Jennifer Hutton was commended for her high level of personal and professional integrity and respect across the SCS that has made a key difference to BAME progression in MHCLG.

The Employee Network Excellence Award was won by Bernadette Thompson and Anita Bhalla, the co-chairs of the Race to the Top network for grade 6 and 7 staff with the aim of getting them into the senior civil service. The network includes a shadowing scheme, which offers exceptional learning placements including opportunities to shadow very senior roles. Over 400 members participated in 2018 and 2019, and over 1,000 have benefitted overall.

The fair treatment ambassador service founded by volunteers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to address bullying, harassment and discrimination in the department was highly commended. The scheme has delivered a departmental culture where everyone is treated fairly and has been embedded in MHCLG and emulated across Whitehall. 

The full list of winners:

Championing Disability Inclusion Award

WINNER: Home Office Working Through Cancer Network

HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Liverpool Neurodiversity Pilot team 

Championing Faith and Belief Inclusion Award

WINNER: Nuzhat Ali

HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Civil Service Muslim Network

Championing Gender Equality Award

WINNER: DWP Digital team

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Defence Intelligence Gender Equality Group

Championing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) Inclusion Award

WINNER: LGBTI Staff Network


Championing Race Equality Award

WINNER: Bristol Race Network

HIGHLY COMMENDED: HR SCS Recruitment & Talent Team

Championing Social Mobility Award

WINNER: DfE Social Mobility Network

HIGHLY COMMENDED: DVLA Employability Skills Ambassadors

Employee Network Excellence Award

WINNER: Bernadette Thompson and Anita Bhalla - Co-Chairs Race to the Top G6/7 Network

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Fair Treatment Ambassador Service

Cabinet Secretary’s Inclusion Award

WINNER: Sexual Harassment and Personal Safety Working Group, DFID

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Paul Young, HMRC Guidance Team

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