by LAUREN CODLING
LEADERS of faith groups have been urged to consider roles in public organisations, as a minister revealed some religious groups felt they were underrepresented on public bodies.
Oliver Dowden, the minister for implementation, spoke to Eastern Eye following a Faith in Leadership event at Windsor Castle earlier this month.
Dowden, who has previously said it was vital to have diversity in public body roles to reflect communities and ethnic backgrounds, urged faith leaders to consider public appointments for themselves.
Roles on public bodies include appointments within the NHS, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.
Dowden revealed that he had been approached by a number of faith groups who felt they were under-represented.
“We need to change that,” he said. “More diverse boards are better able to understand
and connect with the people they serve. Those from different faiths can provide a range of perspectives for better decision making, particularly if ethical and moral dilemmas arise.”
Insisting that it was a cause he was passionate about, Dowden added he was determined to use his role to ensure “we get the very best people from all walks of life into public appointments”.
The government makes more than 1,000 public appointments to the boards of 550 public bodies, he noted. Between them, these bodies spend more than £200 billion a year and touch every aspect of people’s lives across the UK.
Therefore, he added, it was really important that the government got the best people with a broad range of experience in these roles.
Dowden, who was appointed as the parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office last January, believes individuals from a faith background can bring “important and informed” perspectives to the “difficult, contentious and ethical” questions which many of these public
bodies tackle on a daily basis.
Public bodies can benefit an enormous amount from the wisdom and perspectives from our faith communities, he said.
“We have recently advertised roles on the boards of Social Work England to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Biometrics and the Forensics Ethics Group where a faith perspective is important to the design and delivery of these important bodies,” Dowden said.
Public bodies including healthcare, justice and cultural institutions deliver a variety of services, and Dowden said he understood that some people may face challenging decisions.
“We need the best minds from across all communities to help guide them,” he said. “It’s really important that those communities are represented on the boards of public bodies so that they deliver what individuals really need.”
Currently, the government is recruiting for some 30 public appointments and have many more coming up in future months. Opportunities range from chair of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to an independent chair of the Defence Science Expert Committee.
“Those who want to apply do not have to be an expert in a particular sector to be a credible candidate for these positions,” the Hertsmere MP said. “No matter what the business of these public bodies, the fresh perspective that a diverse board can bring could be just what is needed.”
See publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk for more information.