Race Equality Awards 2016 - Champion and Executive Sponsor - DWP, Department of Work and Pensions

Kevin Cunnington, DWP Race Equality Champion: Business Transformation Director General

Kevin is committed to two key actions: increasing the visibility of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) role models, particularly within the Senior Civil Service (SCS), and creating a vibrant national staff network.

Looking at DWP's diversity data, Kevin recognised a glass ceiling at higher grades within DWP. He set out to formulate a race equality strategy by collaborating with DWP employees across the UK, basing the strategy off BAME insights, experiences and views of the data.

Image of Kevin Cunnington from DWP

Kevin organised an Executive Team (ET) away day in September 2015 for all Director Generals to understand their champion role requirements and agree on the strategic and inclusive approach to championing diversity. They heard from BAME network leaders, talent programme participants and colleagues from across DWP. ET took a leadership pledge to support the Permanent Secretary's diversity objective and encouraged other leaders to do the same, and Kevin appointed a dedicated lead on this work. The resulting discussion ET had with colleagues on next steps also sparked an HR-led internal review of DWP's application processes, of which Kevin was keen to ensure at least 50% of SCS interview panels have BAME representation. 

Kevin set up race forums to engage with colleagues from all ethnicities, starting in the South with frontline operational colleagues. The forums helped him to understand the issues and the need to collaborate with BAME colleagues to provide solutions. He also challenged leaders to consciously think about the diversity of their interview panels and to encourage BAME colleagues to participate in interview training for SCS panels. 

Kevin worked with a range of stakeholders within DWP, including HR teams, Departmental Equality Group Race representatives and the Inspire and Achieve BAME staff network, as well as the cross-government civil service forum. He also supports the Inspire and Achieve national expansion.

In April 2016, Kevin hosted DWP's first ever inclusive leadership event to promote the expert knowledge of the DWP's diversity champions and encourage senior leaders to support his work around diverse interview panels, which was attended by over 250 colleagues.

Kevin has also attended, hosted and promoted diversity events to build his knowledge and raise awareness within DWP, including Black History Month talks where he encouraged colleagues to share their experiences and set up a cultural tour of religious places of worship. 

Kevin is now expanding his focus to Northern and Central England. He has continuously shared best practice and learning with ET colleagues, which has enabled a joined-up approach and encouraged all colleagues to create an inclusive culture. The inclusive leadership event will now be bi-annual and blogs will be published in autumn 2016 to share best practice and showcase the results of the first event.

Kevin is also working closely with the specialist recruitment team to source BAME colleagues to take part in the SCS recruitment panels. The placement of vacancy advertising is also under review to ensure the best BAME talent is attracted.