Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan 2019 Briefing

What is a Public Appointment?

Every year, the government makes over 1,000 public appointments to the boards of around 550 public bodies. Public bodies deliver vital services and enrich our culture and communities through organisations such as the National Health Service, British Museum and the Big Lottery Fund. These organisations collectively spend over £200 billion a year and range across all aspects of public life, from reducing fuel poverty to building our motorways.

The roles of public appointees vary but often require them to provide leadership, strategic direction, independent scrutiny and, in some cases, specialist expertise in important areas of public life

Progress since 2017 Diversity Action Plan

  1. Lord Holmes Review, to review barriers preventing disabled people from taking up public appointments commissioned and published.
  2. Public appointments LinkedIn page created for peer-peer support and networking
  3. Events held to promote opportunities to new audiences
  4. Diverse appointments publicised on social media
  5. Guidance issued to departments about the use of executive search firms to ensure diversity is a key outcome
  6. Continued work to help with individual department public appointment campaigns
  7. New data collection tool implemented to improve real time information on diversity outcomes in recruitment campaigns
  8. Started work on new accessible diversity monitoring form
  9. Updated guidance for Advisory Assessment Panel members reminding them of their responsibilities in relation to diversity
  10. New enhanced code of conduct for board members published

Current and Historic Levels of Diversity in Public Appointments

 Diversity of 2018 appointees:

  • 43% Women (target = 50%)
  • 10% Ethnic minorities (target = 14%)
  • 5% Disabled (target = n/a – LH recommends one set at 11.3%)

 Appointments and reappointments 2013 – 2018

 The only diversity strand where some progress has been made is gender (a nine percentage point increase). Appointments of BAME and Disabled People have remained well below target and constant since 2013.

Key Objectives of the 2019 Diversity Action Plan

  1. Improving data and reporting on diversity
  2. Raising awareness and tapping into new talent
  3. Improving the public appointments recruitment process
  4. Supporting and developing public appointees.

Improving data and reporting on diversity

  • Publish diversity data annually by department
  • Improve the collection of data by reviewing existing mechanisms and improving diversity monitoring form and its completion rate
  • Single online application portal to make data collection easier
  • Standardise language on forms
  • Integrate BSL videos on websites
  • Review setting of a disability target

Raising awareness and tapping into new talent

  • Work to improve awareness of public appointment opportunities: build stronger links with existing networks and organisations to help reach these under-represented groups and celebrate role models
  • Create accessible materials for aspiring or former applicants to break down, explain and ‘myth bust’ the expectations of the public appointment application process and provide helpful tips.
  • Majority of ministerial departments already disability confident other departments which sponsor public bodies to also achieve a Disability Confident and all to encourage their sponsored public bodies to join the scheme.
  • Set up a mentoring pilot by July 2020 to target and support  ‘near-miss’ candidates, particularly those from under-represented groups, in an effort to assist them to secure a public appointment.

Improving the public appointments recruitment process

  • Produce guidelines to improve inclusivity of appointment processes including: tips for increasing diversity recording; ways to produce accessible application packs; setting out the importance of candidate experience; best practice use of Disability Confident; sign posting existing online accessibility and diversity toolkits and resources; and, approaches to adjustments for interview.
  • Run pilot schemes to test and evaluate new innovative approaches to the application process
  • Improve advise on reappointments

Supporting and developing public appointees

  • Deliver induction training for new non-executive directors
  • Set up a pilot in a small number of departments one-to-one session with an experienced Chair or board member of a public body. These sessions could form the start of an informal, supportive coaching relationship
  • Clarify expectations of board appraisals within public bodies
  • Set up an online peer-run network open to all public appointees, but specifically aimed at newly appointed non-executives
  • Working across all key partners to create an Inclusive Boards Charter by June 2020.

If you would like to find out more information in this area, please get in touch with us by emailing

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