Diversity and Queen’s Honours System — The Inside Story

During these challenging times we have heard some remarkable stories of people stepping up to help others in the community in their hour of need.

Without a doubt, the biggest inspiration has been the tale of 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, who is set to be knighted by The Queen for his tremendous fundraising efforts, which saw him pull in more than £32 million for NHS charities.

Then there are the millions of brave key workers in the NHS, emergency services, care homes, supermarkets and delivery drivers across the country who have gone beyond the call of duty during this crisis. Many of them will surely be in line to receive a Queen’s Honour.

But who is eligible for this most prestigious of awards? How do you go about nominating your local hero? And how does the selection process work? And has the system evolved to reflect the demographics of modern Britain?

But does this matter lie with the awards process itself, or is it a problem still entrenched in wider society?

In 2019, almost 90% of all recipients were white. In the higher honours (i.e. damehoods and knighthoods) this figure goes up to almost 97%! Given that in the 2011 census, 19.5% of respondents identified as being from ethnic minorities, even the Government’s target of 10% of recipients to be from BAME communities is a pretty low goal.

In terms of gender, however, things are beginning to balance out, although they’re still not quite there yet. The Census states that the UK population is made up of 51% females, yet we are only seeing an average of 49% of awards being given to women.

Interestingly, the front page imagery of the 2015–19 Honours report tells a different story. The one that we wish we were able to evidence. But there’s no denying the facts.

The image — sadly — doesn’t reflect the statistics on diversity.

Dame Claire Tickell is a champion for diversity in the honours awards and the Government has stated its intention to diversify the recipients list. But when we consider how applications are made and who might be nominated, we might be able to understand why there is a discrepancy.

For example, in the charitable sector, which is often lauded for services to the community, senior executives are overwhelmingly white (in fact, according to an article on the Charity Job website, only 3% of charity CEOs are BAME.) Furthermore, if you consider the broader business sector, there is still seeing a significant gap. The CIPD states that, out of the 1,050 board level positions in the FTSE 100, only 85 are from BAME backgrounds.

Perhaps the problem is that BAME people are not being given the same access to opportunities as their white counterparts? And of those who are in roles or situations whereby they, personally, are giving back to society, perhaps they are not being recognised for it?

Regardless of where the fault lies here, there is of course an element of influence that the Honours awards process can have.

Maybe more work needs to be done to highlight the submissions process at all levels within an organisation? Maybe there needs to be clearer communications about who is eligible to be nominated? And maybe those making the nominations should stop automatically looking to the people who are already at the top of their game?

Who is Eligible to Receive an Honour?

Key criteria

Any British or Commonwealth citizen is eligible to receive an Honour, regardless of where they live. Non-British or Commonwealth nationals who have made a significant contribution to relations between the UK and their own country can also qualify for an honorary award.

The nominee can receive an Honour for a range of achievements, including making a difference in their community or field of work, long-term voluntary service or improving the quality of life for people less able to help themselves. It can also include those who have enhanced Britain’s reputation, have played a key role in driving innovation and entrepreneurship, have effected significant change or displayed moral courage.

Most successful nominations are based predominantly on either voluntary, community or charity work. In the New Year Honours 2020, 72% of recipients were chosen because of their work in the community, according to a recent Cabinet Office report. More recipients also come from organisations dedicated to others.

The key condition of any nomination is that the nominee is still actively engaged in the work they have been nominated for, however, gallantry awards can also be made posthumously.

The nomination process

Nominations are open all year round and can be made online at https://www.gov.uk/honours/nominate-someone-in-the-uk or by post or email.

You need to write a detailed description explaining why you want to nominate your nominee and include:

· Their name, age, address and contact details;

· Details of the relevant work or volunteering they have done;

· Details of any awards or other recognition they have received, including articles, photos or letters;

· Two supporting letters from people who know them personally

Of the 3,000 or so nominations received annually, only about 10% are successful, meaning that it’s imperative to get yours spot on as you only get one shot at it. First of all you should carefully consider why you are nominating that person.

Then you need to thoroughly research, gather and verify all the facts about the individual to support your nomination. When writing your nomination, you should be as relevant and specific as possible about the nominee’s work and achievements and cite some examples of how they have made a difference.

It is also worth considering asking an expert to appraise or help you to write your submission. This is a service offered by a number of businesses, my own included.

What happens next?

After you have made your nomination, you will receive an acknowledgement from the Cabinet Office. The Honours and Appointments Secretariat will then assess the credentials of all nominations.

All those that qualify are then forwarded to one of nine expert Honours Committees, each chaired by a non-civil servant, to select the best candidates. The committees include:

· Arts and media;

· Community, voluntary and local services;

· Economy;

· Education;

· Health;

· Parliamentary and political service;

· Science and technology;

· Sport;

· State servants

The chosen ones are sent on to the main Honours Committee to make the final decision. Their recommendations are forwarded to the Prime Minister and then on to The Queen for informal approval. The whole process takes about 12 to 18 months.

Letters are sent to each nominee and if they choose to accept the Honour, the Queen’s Honours List is formally approved.

The recipients are announced in the official Crown newspaper, The Gazette, twice a year; in the New Year’s Honours List and on The Queen’s official birthday in mid-June. They are then presented with their medals by The Queen or another Member of the Royal Family at an Investiture ceremony.

Which Honours exist, and what are they for?

An MBE is awarded for outstanding service to the community or local service and a CBE for playing a prominent role at regional or national level in any activity. Nominees qualify for an OBE for excelling in a major local role in any activity, such as in business, the public sector or charity and a knighthood or damehood for a major, long-term contribution at national or international level.

Is there an everyday hero in your community who you think deserves recognition for their amazing work or achievements? Go ahead and apply — you never know!

Business owner, chef and writer. Founder of Bayleaf Solutions including Bayleaf Honours

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