New plan aims for more senior civil servants


newslatestThe government has published a new plan that it hopes will see more disabled people achieving senior positions in the Civil Service.

The Talent Action Plan includes measures designed to remove the “obstacles” which have limited the number of disabled people, and other minority groups, joining the Civil Service and reaching its highest levels.

Although the proportion of civil servants “declaring a disability” has risen from 4.1 per cent in 1998 to 8.6 per cent of about 439,000 people in the UK and abroad, the number of disabled people achieving senior status has remained stubbornly low, at just 3.1 per cent of those in what is known as the Senior Civil Service (SCS)

In an introduction to the new plan, the Conservative cabinet office minister Francis Maude and cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood admit that “too often in the past we created grand strategies but were left puzzled when they didn’t implement themselves”.

They add: “This time our most senior leaders will be directly responsible for making sure these changes happen.”

Three years ago, a leaked, unpublished government report obtained by Disability News Service revealed the “disturbing” levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment faced by disabled civil servants.

Government departments have not been able to use the Access to Work (AtW) scheme to fund workplace adjustments since October 2006, and the leaked report said this had resulted in civil servants receiving a “second class service” compared with the private sector and the rest of the public sector.

The report found that many disabled civil servants were facing a “real fight” to secure the adjustments they needed to do their jobs.

It also found that examples of good practice across the Civil Service were “the exceptions to the rule”, while the “serious problems” faced by disabled civil servants needed “urgent attention”.

Among the measures included in the new action plan are to identify and champion SCS role models from diverse backgrounds; to promote success, achievements and the sharing of best practice across the Civil Service; and to increase opportunities for networking.

Maude said this week that he had commissioned new research to examine the barriers faced by disabled civil servants.

The results of this research – and three other reports into the barriers faced by women; ethnic minorities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people – will be used to refresh the action plan next year.

Maude said: “We are now examining the actual barriers faced by civil servants with a disability and will address them.”

Philip Connolly, policy and communications manager for Disability Rights UK, said the persistently low levels of disabled people in the SCS could be partly due to the impact of removing ATW funding from government departments in 2006.

He said: “We welcome an action plan. The key thing is that we do not get lulled into thinking that we are doing something because we are monitoring something.”

He added: “The government took its Disability Confident campaign out to employers so we expect government themselves to be an exemplar employer.”

17 September 2014