Civil servant tried to take their own life due to 'prolonged racial bullying'

Black civil servants shared horrifying accounts of alleged racism as part of a Cabinet Office review

The Cabinet Office said it would not tolerate any discrimination
The Cabinet Office said it would not tolerate any discrimination

A civil servant tried to take their own life after “prolonged racial bullying” in the Cabinet Office, it has been claimed.

The Government department launched a review earlier this year “into respect and inclusion” following accusations of racism.

A draft presentation ahead of the review was shared with all staff as part of a series, So Let’s Talk About Race, in a bid to shine a light on experiences of staff.

In the slides, seen by the Press Association, black civil servants shared horrifying accounts of alleged racism.

One member of staff said they would not put their photo on internal services “because I don’t want people to know I’m black before they meet me”.

Protesters take the knee outside Downing Street


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Another said a member of their team had only appointed white men, and when challenged on not appointing a colleague with a Nigerian name, they said it was because “‘no-one can pronounce their name’ and ‘I don’t understand them when they speak’.”

A further employee said: “Things reached a very low point for me about what is happening in certain parts of the department when I was told by a colleague that someone had attempted to take their own life because of prolonged racial bullying.”

According to the slides the presentations were sponsored by Sir John Manzoni, who was chief executive of the civil service and the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary from 2014 to April 2020, and Simon Tse, the Crown Commercial Service chief executive and Cabinet Office Race Champion.

The PCS union, which represents civil servants, called the accusations “utterly shocking”.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka wrote to Mr Chisholm last December raising concerns about bullying following the Civil Service People Survey.

At that time, he said that “large numbers” of black and ethnic minority staff had complained to the union about prejudice.

He also said disabled staff faced direct and indirect discrimination at work.

The Cabinet Office has a cross-Government role and describes itself as the “corporate headquarters of the Civil Service”.

The department – which was headed by Michael Gove until September when he was replaced by Steve Barclay – said improvements had been made, and this was reflected in the most recent staff survey.

Black Lives Matter projected onto the Houses of Parliament, London, last year following the death of George Floyd



A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Cabinet Office does not tolerate bullying, harassment or discrimination in any form. We sought out these experiences precisely to help make our workspace more inclusive.

“This is a vital part of our commitment to set a new standard for diversity and inclusion, as set out in the Declaration on Government Reform. While our latest data shows a decline in reported incidents of discrimination, there is always more we can do.

“Our Respect and Inclusion review will build on the improvements made in recent years by considering our policies, practices and workplace culture, supported by specialist external advice.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he was not aware of the specific case.

He added: “I think you’ve heard the Prime Minister say before that racism has no role whatsoever in our society.

“I’m not aware of that individual case and I don’t think it’d be appropriate for me to comment on it.”

A PCS spokesman said: “While we welcome the Cabinet Office launching a review, it is disgraceful that PCS is being excluded from the full process by not being allowed a seat on the project management committee.

“It is unacceptable that the full Cabinet Office report will be withheld from unions when PCS and others are the ones who have highlighted the appalling examples of racism within the department.

“Only by a full and transparent process can we begin to give confidence to staff that their concerns are being addressed and that there will be a significant culture shift within the Cabinet Office.”

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