Straw sets target for minority staff

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 3,000 firefighters will have to be recruited from ethnic minorities to meet targets announced yesterday by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.

The prison, probation and immigration services will also have to take steps to ensure the numbers of black and Asian staff reflect the ethnic make-up of the general population in England and Wales.

The Home Secretary said he expected 7 per cent of all staff to be drawn from the ethnic minorities within 10 years, with local services reflecting the make-up of the area they cover.

Only 1 per cent of firefighters in England and Wales are currently from ethnic minorities.

The Fire Brigades Union said the targets represented an "opportunity for change". Andy Gilchrist, the union's national officer, said: "We've got to change so that people realise there is a job for them to do here. We are a public service, paid for by the public and we serve the public so we should reflect the public that we serve."

The number of ethnic minority prison service staff will have to more than double from the current 3.2 per cent. Addressing staff yesterday, the service's director general Martin Narey said he was concerned by the number of Asian staff who were leaving the service early.

The targets also cover senior Home Office civil service posts, where ethnic minority representation is to rise from 1.6 per cent to 3.2 per cent by 2004.

Around 7 per cent of immigration staff and nearly 9 per cent of probation staff are already drawn from ethnic minorities. These services will have to maintain such figuresand enure ethnic minority staff do not leave at a greater rate than white colleagues and enjoy similar promotion patterns.

The targets match those set for the police earlier this year in response to recommendations in Sir William Macpherson's report into the handling of the investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Mr Straw said the targets would help make the Home Office a "beacon of good practice within the public sector".

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