Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered the Home Office to drop courses for staff after it emerged that Border Force and UK Visas and Immigration, two of the ministry’s agencies, were offering training intended to alert people to the hidden biases they might harbor.
Expense records show Border Force paid £ 32,510 last year to Challenge Consultancy, a diversity firm which previously said Peter Pan’s character Captain Hook represented a ‘sinister’ message about disability.
The Telegraph previously reported that Challenge used the slogan ‘if you have a brain, you have a bias’ in its resources, and its founder Femi Otitoju said in an interview in 2019 that she “only works to be an activist. “.
In December of last year, a government review led ministers to conclude that “unconscious bias training is not achieving its intended goals.” The government has declared that training “will therefore be phased out in the civil service”.
Adam Holloway, a Conservative member of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, suggested it was “insulting” to border force officers and personnel to suggest they needed training on unconscious bias.
Holloway said: “I refuse to accept that the vast, overwhelming majority of the hired personnel from the Border Forces and the Home Office are somehow racist and need their brains adjusted. He added that it would be best to spend his time tackling the problem of relatively wealthy migrants paying smugglers to enter the UK illegally.
A slew of Tory MPs have already expressed their anger over the training, which they say is driven by a “wake-up agenda” rather than evidence and only serves to enrich consultants.
The review found a ‘mixed picture’ of the effectiveness of unconscious bias training
Unconscious bias learning was first imposed on all Whitehall staff in 2014, with online sessions for junior staff and face-to-face lectures for senior mandarins.
A 2018 evaluation conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found a “mixed picture” of the effectiveness of unconscious bias training.
Recognizing the growing popularity of training in organizations across the UK, the commission said: “This training has been implemented even though some academic research and reports have highlighted the ineffectiveness, and even the negative effects. , from UBT. [unconscious bias training]. »
He added that “there remains a lot of academic debate about the accuracy” of the implicit association test, one of the most common measures of unconscious bias, which measures reaction time of how quickly a participant can. link positive and negative stimuli to labels such as male and female.
In a statement released in December last year, Cabinet Minister Julia Lopez said a government review highlighted how “there is currently no evidence that this training changes behavior in the long term or improves equality at work in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups ”.
The statement added: “It also indicates that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequences… in light of its findings, ministers concluded that unconscious bias training is not achieving its intended goals. It will therefore be phased out in the public service. We encourage other public sector employers to do the same.