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Only one in eight people have served on a public body, according to new IPSOS MORI research commissioned by the Government Equalities Office and the Cabinet Office, and of these, most are men from white backgrounds.
The research also showed that women are less likely to consider applying for a public appointment on bodies such as the Arts Council and on the boards of local hospitals, than men; disabled people are less likely to feel that the application process is open and fair; and that while those from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be interested in applying in the future, they are less likely to consider putting themselves forward. Some 89% of the public say they have never considered applying for a national public appointment.
The Government Equalities Office and the Cabinet Office are spearheading a campaign to encourage a more diverse group of people to apply for public appointments so our public bodies better reflect the communities they serve. This includes a new Public Appointments Ambassadors network and two new public appointments mentoring programmes. The network will include nearly 200 people from a wide range of backgrounds who will give potential candidates the advice and support they need to apply for public appointments, and will encourage the appropriate candidates from diverse backgrounds to know about and apply for any opportunities available.
New cross-Government targets state that by 2011 women must form 50% of new public appointees, disabled people 14%, and people from ethnic minorities 11% in order to better reflect the communities they serve. But figures from March 2008 show women formed only 33% of public appointees, disabled people 5%, and people from ethnic minorities 5.7%.
Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, and Maria Eagle, Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, will speak at the campaign’s launch event which is chaired by Bonnie Greer, playwright and Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum.
Harman said: "Every day these public bodies are taking decisions which are having an effect on people’s lives and are shaping their future. They are important – but they are not representative of society. We have to do more and we are."
The reception will be attended by over 180 Public Appointment Ambassadors from across the country. The Ambassadors will be speaking at events across the country. They will help demonstrate how serving on the board of a public body can help to enhance professional and life skills while also making a difference and helping to shape the quality of public services.
For more information on Public Appointments, click here.
For the IPSOS MORI research report, click here.