Commissioner responds to Cabinet Office’s revised Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan

Blog post by Peter Riddell

Friday 28 June 2019

The Commissioner for Public Appointments welcomes the thrust of the Cabinet Office’s revised Diversity Action Plan and the linked response to the recommendations by Lord Holmes of Richmond in his persuasive review last December about how to open up appointments to disabled people. But much more needs urgently to be done if the Government is to meet its targets for currently under-represented groups by 2022.

I appreciate the thought that the Government has given to achieving greater diversity in appointments – in particular, raising the profile of the issue by including it in single departmental plans and making it part of the appraisal of Permanent Secretaries. These steps are welcome and important. Following on from the workshop I held earlier this year on mentoring potential applicants, I am pleased that the Cabinet Office has started work with my officials and the Public Chairs Form to develop a pilot scheme. By working together on such initiatives to encourage wider participation, we have the chance to make a difference to the diversity of boards of public bodies.

Some of the key concerns raised by Lord Holmes centred around the absence of reliable data and the accessibility of the current application system. I am glad that the Cabinet Office has recognised the importance of these issues. Both could be addressed by the introduction of an automated system which allows online applications with a compulsory diversity questionnaire (incorporating  a ‘prefer not to say’ category for those applicants who do not wish to declare). There are no commitments here but the further examination of mandatory returns and the scoping of an online portal by the Cabinet Office are welcome. A better quality of data is essential in order to fulfil my responsibility under the Government’s Governance Code to track progress on diversity.

A copy of the revised diversity action plan can be viewed by clicking here.

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