Publicly funded bodies are paying ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ per year to be accredited as ‘diversity champions’ by LGBT rights charity Stonewall.
According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, around 250 public sector organisations and government departments – including local councils, police forces, NHS trusts and departments such as the Department for Education, MI5 and the Ministry of Justice – pay ‘thousands’ each year to be members of the programme.
More than 850 organisations in the public and private sectors are part of the Diversity Champions programme, which gives employers access to resources, guidance, education and support on different areas of LGBT inclusion.
The base rate to join the scheme is £2,500, but the price can increase depending on the size of the organisation, headcount and “geographical activity”. The Telegraph claimed taxpayer-funded organisations collectively pay around £600,000 per year for their Diversity Champions subscriptions.
One such organisation is the Crown Prosecution Service, which is facing a judicial review over its membership. Campaigners believe that its Diversity Champions accreditation renders it “institutionally biased” in the debate surrounding the rights of transgender people, which Stonewall is seeking to advance.
The core issues in the case being brought against the CPS by the Safe Schools Alliance UK (SSA UK) and free speech group Fair Cop, on behalf of a teenage girl, are that proposed transgender rights conflict with women’s sex-based rights, and that the CPS should remain independent and impartial as a prosecuting authority.
The teenager in the case, Miss A, said: “I do not believe the CPS can be fair as they are listening to Stonewall who are misrepresenting what the law says about my rights to female-only spaces. I do not trust them to focus on the safety, privacy and dignity of girls, or to balance the rights of all young people in schools.”
SSA UK earlier this year said the CPS should remain impartial in its review of the LGBT+ Bullying and Hate Crime Guidance, which should be “free of political ideology”.
A Freedom of Information request made by the Sunday Telegraph showed the CPS paid Stonewall £6,000 per year for two subscriptions for staff in England and Wales.
A CPS spokesperson said: “We have responded to a judicial review making it clear that our status as a Stonewall Champion plays no part in our decision making. It is purely to show that the CPS is an employer that respects the identities of our LGBT+ staff.”
A spokesperson for Stonewall said the Diversity Champions programme advises participants on best practice, and organisations are not obliged to take their advice.
Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley said: “All employers, including public authorities, have a legal duty to reduce inequalities and ensure lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are free from discrimination at work. Our industry-leading Diversity Champions programme supports organisations to make their workplaces more inclusive of LGBT people.
“This work is absolutely vital as more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) hide who they are at work, while one in five (18%) have been the target of bullying because they’re LGBT. The programme covers everything from policy and procedure, to staff networks and monitoring, to culture and wellbeing to help organisation create truly inclusive workplaces.”