Skip to main content

What are you looking for?

Diversity matters – and so does understanding

BY BEO | 15/09/2023

Yesterday afternoon, The Guardian revealed that the Home Office is going to be vetting what diversity training it provides to staff, with an aim to “halt courses that are deemed to promote policies contrary to those of the government, including critical race theory.”

Now I’m not going to get into the arguments about ‘woke-ness’, rather I want to put this decision into context.

This diversity training was a recommendation from Baroness Williams’ review of Home Office procedures, following the Windrush Scandal. The recommendation was not made out of a desire to be ‘touchy-feely’ or some progressive agenda – it came from reviewing the most outrageous systemic abuse of British citizens, which resulted in removing them from their own country and in some cases, deaths.

When the system fails, change has to happen. Baroness Williams’ review was thorough, independent and thoughtful work which was welcomed in full by the Government at the time. She highlighted that “The Windrush scandal was in part able to happen because of the public’s and officials’ poor understanding of Britain’s colonial history, the history of inward and outward migration, and the history of black Britons.“

“I think it is unfortunate that most of the policymakers were white and most of the people involved were black.”- Senior official

Her recommendation was clear – devise, implement and review a comprehensive learning and development programme which makes sure all its existing and new staff address this ‘poor understanding’.

She went further and recommended that the department:

  • review its diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias awareness training and that it is designed to develop a full understanding of diversity and inclusion principles,
  • produce a diversity and inclusion training plan for all staff and provide refresher training to keep all current and new staff up to date

You might ask why? Quite simply because the system failed. It didn’t see its own failings. Warnings were ignored. Again, as Baroness Williams said “The benefits of a diverse workforce are well understood” but the Home Office’s own stats at the time highlighted that the lack of diversity, especially at senior level, was part of the reason the Windrush Scandal happened.

The training was recommended to help those at all levels of the department understand those who they are there to serve – us. To help those within the Home Office to understand and support their colleagues, to provide understanding and opportunities to increase diversity at all levels.

Knowledge is power, understanding is using it. We shouldn’t be afraid of knowledge and understanding, in fact we need to celebrate it. It makes us all better.

Three years on from that Review, another of the recommendations is being dropped for fear of being “woke”. This doesn’t just impact staff – this impacts all of us. It is creating an environment that could lead to another Windrush Scandal.

I’m calling on the Home Office to do right by us all – by its staff, by its representatives and those it supports in Government – commit to these training programmes, provide regular equality impact assessments to help identify where there are still challenges and finally, provide the right processes and support internally to improve the diversity needed to ensure that we never get to a situation like the Windrush Scandal ever again.