Support wanes for new diversity best practice body

Support for a new diversity body to monitor standards and advocate best practice is waning among practitioners just four months since it was recommended.

In December 2007 the Learning and Skills Council published the final results of its two-year study on how to improve industry standards and career paths for diversity practitioners.

The report revealed that 80% of 1,500 equality and diversity experts wanted a new body, and it demonstrated how this could be funded and implemented.

The LSC project cost £230,000 to research, yet just 16 weeks after its final study, diversity practitioners on the government agency’s ‘interested parties’ list are losing interest.

Anj Handa, commercial director of the West Yorkshire Employer Coalition (WYEC), an employment and skills network for employers, said several diversity organisations already existed, such as the National Centre for Diversity, to promote best practice among equality practitioners.

“I do not think a new body should be set up. [There is] a plethora of diversity support organisations out there, whether private membership organisations or centrally-funded local bodies.”

Peter Barnard, HR director at the Grimsby Institute of Further Education is also against any new diversity body being created.

“A new association would not help me establish my career path. We now have bodies like the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and I am nervous about yet another body, which would need endless amounts of time and energy and set up costs.”

He added that the £230,000 spent by the LSC was an “awful lot of money”, echoing calls from diversity bodies that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

“What we need is for government to work with training providers to improve standards, rather than trying to do it all themselves,” he said.

The diversity programme manager at the charity British Red Cross, Fiona Adamson, is more optimistic about a new body as long as the level of support and training available to practitioners is clearly stated from the beginning.

“Approaches to equality and diversity in organisations would also need to be ironed out,” she added.

An association management consultancy, Kingston Smith, on behalf of the LSC, has written to more than 100 diversity practitioners including those working at local authorities and private sector firms, asking if they would like to participate in setting up a steering group help create a new body.

Its chief executive Paul Neale insisted a not-for-profit diversity body would be created.

“More than 20 practitioners have already responded showing their interest in setting up a steering group.

“How useful the body will be depends on how many practitioners join and through their membership fees, how much money can be raised to support diversity.

“The new body will certainly go ahead, but the exact size or remit is still to be decided.”

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