News story

Civil Service pilots new social mobility measures

A new 1-month pilot to test the socio-economic backgrounds of 4,000 of the most senior staff in government has launched this week.

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The pilot, led by the Civil Service, is part of a campaign to create a diverse and modern workforce in the Civil Service, and pilot measures across the UK.

In March this year, our Talent Action Plan 2016 set out the government’s commitment on working with employers and other interested sectors to develop, for the first time, a set of common measures. The measures aim to enable employers to understand the socio-economic backgrounds of their workforces and applicant pools.

These measures will be collected on an entirely voluntary basis and used anonymously, in the same way as other diversity data. They will not form the basis of any individual recruitment decision. Appointment is and should always be on merit. Since September, name and school blind applications have been rolled out for 70% of the Civil Service by default and will soon be standard across the board.

This work is part of the broader strategy to improve social mobility in the Civil Service and beyond.

Since March, the Cabinet Office has sought views from businesses, leaders in the field of social mobility, and relevant specialist groups. These will inform the development of a recommended set of national measures for employers.

Cabinet Office is leading this engagement, working with the Bridge Group, an independent charity specialising in social mobility. It is also taking valuable advice from employers recognised as champions in the Social Mobility Business Compact, the Social Mobility Commission, organisations specialising in social mobility, academics, and supporting employers.

Twenty-six potential measures were put for public comment for 1 month over May and June.

Where we are now

We received 43 written responses from prominent employers, academics and other interested stakeholders giving views on the potential measures. In addition over 40 representatives from a range of sectors attended roundtable events to exchange views on the potential measures.

The engagement exercise has now closed. The new Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ben Gummer, has today made clear the vital importance of this work to further the national debate on social mobility.

The consultative approach means that the minister can reveal 12 potential measures which will piloted through an anonymous and voluntary socio-economic background survey of over 4,000 current senior civil servants.

This was launched jointly by the Cabinet Secretary, the Chief Executive of the Civil Service, and the Permanent Secretary of HM Revenue & Customs and Social Mobility Champion of the Civil Service, Jon Thompson.

The 12 measures

  • whether the individual spent time in care
  • whether the individual ever had refugee or asylum status
  • whether the individual was a carer as a child
  • the type of secondary school the individual attended
  • the name of the school the individual attended
  • whether their parent, guardian or carer had completed a degree
  • the highest qualification of their parent, guardian or carer
  • the home postcode of the individual at age 14
  • whether the individual was eligible for free school meals
  • the occupation of their parent, guardian or carer
  • the tenure of the accommodation they lived in as a child
  • a self-assessment of their socio-economic background status

A range of businesses that have helped in developing the measures will also pilot the same measures in their own workforce or share insights. This will help in the development of the measures.

Once the findings for the pilot have been considered and further discussions taken place with stakeholders, a basket of 3 to 5 final measures will be announced by the end of 2016. Alongside the measures, guidance will be announced on how they can be used by employers.

Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, said:

I am committed to ensuring that anyone with the right talents and aptitude can serve in the Civil Service, no matter what their background.

Understanding social background through a set of measures, commonly used by employers, will enable us to assess whether we are attracting the widest possible talent and to make decisions which are based on sound evidence.

Businesses that are interested being part of this pilot to develop the national measures can contact us by email: sebmeasures@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Published 17 August 2016