Headlines: January 15th, 2003

Three years into a ten year programme to raise the proportion of people from ethnic minorities in the police, prison and probation services and the Home Office, it has become clear that the culture is changing slowly. Figures published by the Home Office show that recruiting staff from ethnic minorities is not as difficult as retaining them or ensuring their career progression.The percentage of the working age population who are from minority ethnic communities is estimated as 7% and the targets set in 1999 are intended to reflect this proportion by 2009 . The targets relate to those from the black, Asian and mixed communities living in England and Wales.

The prison and probation services and the Home Office exceeded their recruitment targets and the police only failed by a small margin. Staff retention is proving more difficult. Ethnic minority staff leaving the prison service exceeded the proportion of white staff leaving. The situation within the police service is unclear because they are only due to start monitoring in March 2003.

The targets for progression require that by 2009 the percentage of minority ethnic staff in each grade is the same as for white staff. Minority ethnic staff are under-represented at senior levels in the Home Office and the target was not met. There were few promotions to senior positions in the police or probation services. The prison service was more successful with an improved rate of promotions.

The report questions whether the targets are sophisticated enough to deliver change at an area or force level. The targets are also coming under revised scrutiny because the Prime Minister’s strategy unit has predicted that 50% of the growth in the working age population will be made up from minority ethnic groups.