‘Tackling lifelong prejudice is far more than just a box ticking exercise’

So the Government has gone and cancelled ­unconscious bias training for all civil servants.

For those of you not familiar with these schemes, they are designed to combat prejudices people might not be aware that they hold – on issues like racism and sexism – ­prejudices that can have a detrimental impact on people in the workplace.

Now you might expect me to be up in arms about this – but for once I (sort of) agree with the decision.

These programmes have been running in offices for years and a pilot was introduced in the House of Commons in the autumn, presumably in response to the Black Lives Matter marches that followed after the killing of American George Floyd.

They were a convenient way for ­companies to claim they are doing better.

The problem is, as the findings by various researchers point out, they don’t actually make much difference. And I can see why.

The training courses are well-intentioned and not, as Tory MP Ben Bradley says, built on the premise that everyone is internally racist and sexist.

But, if someone has lifelong negative opinions of someone else based on the colour of their skin or their gender, going on a two-hour online course is not enough to change that.

It might make them stop and think, for a bit, but people, being people, they just go back to the way things were.

And in the end it becomes nothing more than a tick-box exercise, like the social media black squares also posted in support of BLM.

And for me that’s even more dangerous.

Because what it does is to allow organisations to claim they are tackling inequality and injustice without having to do any real work.

It’s like trying to fix a broken leg with a sticking plaster, and expecting someone to go running the next day. It ain’t gonna happen.

If governments and workplaces are serious about tackling these issues, they need to actively ensure they have people from all different backgrounds across all levels of the company. And, when they are there, to make them feel welcome, included and listened to. Sadly, far too often, that doesn’t happen.

So I agree with critics, like union leader Lucille Thirlby, who say it’s not enough to just scrap unconscious bias training – it needs to be replaced by programmes which are the catalyst for lasting ­systematic change.

Let’s not let the opportunity go to waste.