On Monday the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) became the latest organisation to announce that it is leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. A spokesperson said following “a review” the CPS “decided to end our membership. We are members of other schemes which help us respect the identities of our LGBT+ colleagues.”
Responding to the news, a Stonewall spokesperson said: “As with all membership programmes, organisations come and go depending on what’s best for their inclusion journey at the time.”
“Contrary to some reporting, our leading Diversity Champions programme continues to grow, and we now work with more than 900 organisations to help create working environments in which all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people can thrive,” they added.
Organisations pay around £2,500 to allow Stonewall to vet their internal policies as part of the Diversity Champions programme. Last month an investigation by the Tax Payers’ Alliance revealed that over the past three years the charity received at least £3,105,877 from a total of 3,127 public sector organisations
This year Stonewall have come under increasing scrutiny, with accusations that the advice they offer is misleading and potentially unlawful. The departure of the CPS follows that of scores of high-profile statutory bodies and quangos including the Cabinet Office, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Justice. In May, The Times reported that equalities minister Liz Truss suggested that all government departments should withdraw from Stonewall’s employment scheme.
Pressure has been put on the CPS to end its relationship with Stonewall before. In February, a 15-year-old girl applied to bring a judicial review against the CPS’s membership of the Diversity Champions programme. The application, which was refused, followed the publication by the CPS of controversial hate crime guidance for schools. The CPS then withdrew the guidance and put it under internal review.
Speaking at the time, Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley complained that the CPS “were made the target of an unfounded and baseless legal attack” and that the case “highlights the disingenuous attempts to discourage public authorities not just from working with Stonewall, but from their delivering commitments to LGBT+ equality”.
Stonewall have repeatedly stated that despite controversy the Diversity Champion Scheme is in fact growing… But an email shared with Lesbian and Gay News shows that on 28th January Stonewall officially recorded just 695 Diversity Champion members.
A few months later and an investigation into the no-platforming of feminist academics was published which argued university policies represented “the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is” reporting that there was a “culture of fear” on campus. Refuting this, the charity argued “These claims have no basis. Stonewall staff had no involvement at all in the decision that was reviewed by the report.”
Stonewall have repeatedly stated that despite controversy the Diversity Champion Scheme is in fact growing. Stonewall supporters Peter Tatchell and Linda Riley recently tweeted claims that there are 892 members of the Diversity Champions scheme, an increase from 865 in August 2020. In press statements, the charity now suggest the membership number is over 900. But an email shared with Lesbian and Gay News shows that on 28th January Stonewall officially recorded just 695 Diversity Champion members.
It seems unlikely that between August 2020 and January 2021 Stonewall lost 170 members, only to gain 197 in the following eight months. These figures do not tally with a statement on Stonewall’s website which claims: “The number of organisations who are part of the programme has grown by 30 in total in the year to 1 June 2021.”
There is no way to verify Stonewall’s claims, nor those of Tatchell and Riley; the page listing members of the Diversity Champions programme has been removed from public view following critical coverage of the charity’s operations. Stonewall have yet to file accounts for the 2020 financial year.
Photo: William Barton/iStock