Disability representation and inclusion at the Civil Service

Feb 2, 2022 | Diversity

Phil Wilson explains how his team makes a difference to disability representation and inclusion through their award winning Fast Stream graduate programme.

The Fast Stream and Emerging Talent team oversees the flagship Fast Stream programme for graduates who have the potential to become Civil Service future leaders.

The scheme stands at Number 1 in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers listing. It has achieved the Personnel Today Disability Inclusion Award 2021 and Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative Inclusive Recruiter of the Year Award 2021.

It was also the theme for one of the leading sessions at ISE’s Diversity and Inclusion event.

We are passionate about proactive improvement to support disabled young people. And we are passionate in respect to inclusion – creating the environment and culture for post holders with disabilities to flourish.

What is the route to making a genuine difference to disability representation and inclusion?

Our strategy

The team delivers its disability strategy through a fully integrated set of functions, from marketing and attraction, assessment design, recruitment, talent development and alumni support, to more specific diversity and inclusion interventions.

Fundamental to our approach is:

  • Implementing Disability Confident reasonable adjustment mechanisms.
  • Establishing disability work experience programmes.
  • Converting disability internships to permanent opportunities.
  • Identifying granular metrics for monitoring disability in detail.
  • Developing accessibility-friendly virtual assessment platforms.
  • Designing and undertaking listening circles and deep dive analysis for those in role. 

Key interventions

A core area of activity has been our multi-award winning positive action diversity internships for first year undergraduates (Early Diversity Internship Programme), penultimate and final year undergraduates (Summer Diversity Internship Programme) and young people on the autism spectrum (Autism Exchange Internship Programme). All programmes prioritise disability participants as a key element.

Added to this is a comprehensive listening circle and deep dive approach to investigate the disabled employee experience through in-depth group sessions. Through this we are moving towards significant change during the graduate development programme – such as:

  • Conducting a review of reasonable adjustments after each campaign for lessons learnt and to ensure a consistent approach as best practice.
  • Ensuring managers understand the practical support available and familiarise themselves with resources and tools that can be used to provide a more consistent approach.
  • Ensuring a robust exit survey is put in place to identify issues related to disabilities and mental health.


  • Through this we have delivered exceptional performance:
  • In 2021 we offered outstanding disability representation of appointed graduates (25.5% – up from 14.3% in 2020) well above the Higher Education Statistics Agency disability graduate population benchmark of 15.8%.
  • Disabled groups have outperformed non-disabled groups every year since 1998 in terms of Fast Stream appointments.
  • We expanded the 2021 Autism Exchange Internship Programme by five and diversity summer internship by 2.5 when compared with 2020.
  • Achieved a 40% summer intern conversion to permanent roles in 2020.
  • Delivered granular disability metrics for Fast Stream to fully profile disabled applications and appointments by disability category.
  • We have undertaken a programme of listening circles and deep dives to understand incumbent needs and make a difference to disabled Fast Streamers. 

We will continue to develop our disability strategy to deliver real impact.

If you missed the ISE Diversity and Inclusion event, you can catch it here

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