The Sunday Telegraph

Patel scraps unconsciou­s bias training for Border Force staff

Civil Service to cut classes from firm that says everyone is prejudiced


ALL Border Force officers have been offered “unconsciou­s bias” training despite controvers­y over whether it has a positive effect.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has ordered the Home Office to scrap the courses after Border Force and UK Visas and Immigratio­n, two of the department’s agencies, offered training to alert people to hidden prejudices they may harbour.

Spending records show that Border Force paid £32,510 last year to Challenge Consultanc­y, a diversity firm that previously said Peter Pan character Captain Hook represente­d a “sinister” message on disability.

Challenge has used the slogan “if you have a brain, you have a bias” and founder Femi Otitoju said in a 2019 interview she “only worked in order to be an activist”.

In December 2020, a review led ministers to conclude that “unconsciou­s bias training does not achieve its intended aims”. The Government said the training “will therefore be phased out in the Civil Service”.

Adam Holloway, a Conservati­ve member of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, suggested that it was “insulting” to Border Force officers and staff to suggest that they require unconsciou­s bias training.

Mr Holloway said: “I refuse to accept that the vast and overwhelmi­ng majority of committed Border Force and Home Office staff are somehow racist and need their brains adjusted.” He said that their time would be better spent tackling the issue of relatively wealthy migrants paying people smugglers to get to the UK illegally. A series of Tory MPs have previously expressed anger about the training, which they argue is driven by a “woke agenda” rather than evidence and serves only to enrich consultant­s.

Unconsciou­s bias turorials were made a requiremen­t for all Whitehall staff in 2014, with online sessions for junior staff and face-to-face lectures for seniors.

A 2018 assessment by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found a “mixed picture” of the effectiven­ess of unconsciou­s bias training.

The commission stated: “This training has been implemente­d even though some academic research and reports have highlighte­d the ineffectiv­eness, and even the negative effects, of UBT (unconsciou­s bias training).”

It added “there remains much 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 issued in December 2020, Julia Lopez, the Cabinet Office minister said a government review had highlighte­d how “there is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour in the long term or improves workplace equality in terms of representa­tion of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups”.

She added: “It also states that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequenc­es ... In light of its findings, ministers have concluded that unconsciou­s bias training does not achieve its intended aims.

“It will therefore be phased out in the Civil Service. We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.”

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