Ollie Entwistle, CSRA’s Chair, writes about developments with the Civil Service Talent Action Plan.

On the 5 September 2014, the Civil Service published the new Talent Action Plan: Removing the barriers to success.

According to the Cabinet Office website the plan “introduces a series of new measures to ensure the Civil Service is among the most female-friendly employers in the country, and the most talented people succeed and reach the top positions, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.”

This is the successor to the previous Civil Service Diversity Strategy, which expired in 2010. Since then, there have been extensive discussions at a senior level about the content of the new Talent Action Plan ahead of its publication. Unfortunately, CSRA was not part of those discussions. Neither was our sister organisation, a:gender. We had one meeting with Sir Simon Fraser, the Civil Service Diversity Champion, to tell us that it would be launched but that was it.

That said, despite this lack of consultation, the Talent Action Plan does include sexual orientation. This is a significant improvement on the previous Civil Service Diversity Strategy that was all but silent on sexual orientation issues.

Indeed, the report makes one particularly significant recommendation in relation to sexual orientation that I want to make you all aware of. Namely, that a report will be commissioned to understand the barriers faced by staff that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or as having any other minority sexual orientation. This report will also cover transgender issues, which have been put alongside LGB* issues for the purpose of the report.

I am pleased to be able to say that Ben Summerskill, formerly the Chief Executive of Stonewall, has been appointed to produce this report. This is good news as Ben will clearly understand the issues that we, as a community, face. Ben has been given eight weeks to produce his report, which will be tight, starting immediately.

In order to ensure that the report has at its foundation a strong evidence base, a survey will be going out to all LGB* & T staff asking them for their thoughts on life in the Civil Service as an LGB* or T person. We are hopeful, though it needs to be confirmed, that Niall Goulding from the CSRA team will be working on the project. This will help ensure that we know what is happening and that we have the opportunity to input.

Ben will also be interviewing various people in the Civil Service to gather more detailed qualitative evidence. Kate Scott-Hughes and I are already in discussion with Ben about how this will work and we will provide an update as soon as we can.

I encourage all of you to participate in, and help promote, this research by Ben Summerskill. This is our opportunity to shape the future development of the Civil Service for LGB* & T staff.

Once this report has been published, we can then work constructively together with the Cabinet Office and our departmental diversity teams to ensure that they address the issues in the report and take forward the other actions in the Talent Action Plan. CSRA will also be regularly engaging with Richard Heaton, who is the Permanent Secretary responsible for ensuring that the Talent Action Plan is delivered, and with Sue Owen, in her capacity as sexual orientation Civil Service Diversity Champion.

I know that the Talent Action Plan is not perfect, and I know many of you dislike the very term “talent” as it implies that there are some that will be excluded. However, if we get our engagement right, we can make it work for us.

At least we are now being consulted…

Ollie Entwistle – CSRA Chair

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