UK work and pensions department seeks diverse candidates in new leadership hiring drive

By on 30/08/2022 | Updated on 30/08/2022
A collage of multicoloured heads

The UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has enlisted a recruitment company to develop a “future pipeline of diverse and credible candidates” for its senior leadership team.

The department will pay GatenbySanderson, a public service-focused leadership recruitment agency, around £90,000 (US$105,318) to run a one-year pilot scheme that will aim to find between 15 and 20 candidates. The candidates must meet specific criteria, including coming from an ethnic-minority or underprivileged socio-economic background or having a disability.

They must be working in senior roles in “complex organisations” outside government, and must be based outside of London.

The pilot will initially focus on two areas within the department: the policy group; and ‘people, capability, and place’. Candidates will be coached on presenting a strong job application, receive presentations from civil service leaders, and have access to networking events as well as other career development opportunities.

According to contract documents, GatenbySanderson will apply a “light-touch selection process”, focusing on candidates’ “skills and experience, potential and aspirations” to decide whether they meet the requirements for a deputy director role.

The campaign is intended to “supplement internal progression and improve the diversity profile” across the senior civil service.

Read more: Best in class: a more inclusive approach to diversity

“This is not a short-term solution,” the contract documents said. “It is an opportunity to invest in a new cohort of external future leaders, supporting them to apply for key leadership roles within DWP and across the civil service.”

Officials hope to gain insights into the lived experience of candidates, which it is thought could encourage “wider thinking about skills from private sector and transfer/scalability”.

The recruitment drive will also seek to elevate DWP’s brand, using feedback from candidates to improve the department’s hiring approach and challenge and reshape aspects of its “thinking”.

Diversity in the senior civil service

According to research from the Social Mobility Commission, 72% of senior civil servants in the UK come from a privileged background. Its analysis of more than 300,000 officials also showed that around one in four senior civil servants were educated at an independent, fee-paying school.

However, while only 12% of senior civil servants at the London-based Treasury were shown to hail from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example, people from disadvantaged backgrounds made up 45% of similar grades within the DWP, which has outposts across the country.

Official figures released last month show that while the percentage of UK civil servants from an ethnic minority background is at a record high, the proportion in top jobs has fallen for the first time since 2015. There was a year-on-year increase in ethnic minority representation at all grades, with the exception of the senior civil service, which has seen a 0.3 percentage point decline since 2021 to 10.3%.

The government had previously pledged to increase the percentage of senior civil servants who are from an ethnic minority year-on-year to reach 13.2% by 2025. However, in its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy: 2022 to 2025, published earlier this year, the government said it had stopped using targets to measure progress.

Funding for the DWP pilot has come from the department’s senior civil service recruitment budget.

Read more: Diversity of UK senior civil service falls

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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