All Border Force officers have been offered "unconscious bias" training despite controversy over whether it has any positive effect, The Telegraph can disclose.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has ordered the Home Office to scrap the courses for staff after it emerged that Border Force and UK Visas and Immigration, two of the department’s agencies, offered training intended to alert people to hidden prejudices they may harbour.
Spending records show Border Force paid £32,510 last year to Challenge Consultancy, a diversity firm that previously said Peter Pan character Captain Hook represented a "sinister" message on disability.
The Telegraph has previously reported that Challenge has used the slogan "if you have a brain, you have a bias" in its resources, and its founder Femi Otitoju said in a 2019 interview that she "only worked in order to be an activist".
In December last year, a government review led to ministers concluding that “unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims”. The Government said the training “will therefore be phased out in the civil service”.
Adam Holloway, a Conservative member of the Commons home affairs committee, suggested it was "insulting" to Border Force officers and staff to suggest that they required unconscious bias training.
Mr Holloway said: "I refuse to accept that the vast and overwhelming majority of committed Border Force and Home Office staff are somehow racist and need their brains adjusted." He added that the time would be better spent tackling the issue of relatively wealthy migrants paying people smugglers in order to get to the UK illegally.
A series of Tory MPs have previously expressed anger about the training, which they argue is driven by a "woke agenda" rather than evidence and serves only to enrich consultants.
Review found ‘mixed picture’ of effectiveness of unconscious bias training
Learning about unconscious biases was first made a requirement for all Whitehall staff in 2014, with online sessions provided for junior staff and face-to-face lectures for senior mandarins.
A 2018 assessment conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found a "mixed picture" of the effectiveness of unconscious bias training.
Acknowledging the increasing popularity of the training in organisations across the UK, the commission said: "This training has been implemented even though some academic research and reports have highlighted the ineffectiveness, and even the negative effects, of UBT [unconscious bias training]."
It added that "there remains much academic debate about the accuracy" of the implicit association test, one of the most common measures of unconscious bias, which measures reaction time of how quickly a participant can link positive and negative stimuli to labels such as male and female.
In a statement issued in December last year, the Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said a government review had highlighted how "there is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour in the long term or improves workplace equality in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups".
The statement added: "It also states that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequences… in light of its findings, ministers have concluded that unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims. It will therefore be phased out in the civil service. We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise."