White middle-class students have been banned from applying for internships with Britain’s biggest police force and in Whitehall.
The temporary jobs, which offer thousands of pounds for work in the summer, are billed as the internships ‘that could change your life’.
They provide students with invaluable work experience at a time of soaring graduate unemployment.
But critics yesterday told of their anger at the decision by the Civil Service and the Metropolitan Police to exclude all but certain ethnic minorities from applying.
They say the schemes cause resentment among staff and are discriminating against white people ‘via the back door’.
The Metropolitan Police, which employs more than 50,000 people, publicly offers only one work experience programme. The 12-week Diversity Internship will pay six interns more than £3,000 to work in a range of departments. While there is no guarantee of a post at the end, it gives students a head start in the battle for police jobs.
But the application form says only students from specific ethnic groups–including black African, black Asian or Chinese–can apply. Applicants are also quizzed about religious beliefs and sexuality.
The force offers a few other work experience places to students from specific colleges.
The Civil Service also has only one central internship programme–marketed as ‘two months that could change your life’–and also specifically for students from ethnic minorities.
The only white candidates eligible to apply for the Fast Stream Summer Diversity Internship are those whose families are from ‘under-represented socio-economic backgrounds’.
Others can get occasional work experience through individual departments.
The scheme, paying about £3,000, is a clear route to the prestigious Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme.
MPs, campaigners and police are furious that prominent public bodies are discriminating against white, middle-class students by denying them the chance to apply.
Tory MP Dominic Raab last night said: ‘We won’t end discrimination by introducing it via the back door. That is precisely what positive discrimination like this does.’
Nadhim Zahawi, a Tory MP who identifies himself as Kurdish, said: ‘These schemes are degrading. Margaret Thatcher didn’t need positive discrimination to become prime minister.’
One Met inspector said: ‘At a time when people in the Met are being offered voluntary redundancy, the Met funds such schemes. Such incentives can only fan the flames of racial division.’
Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, called the schemes ‘tokenistic’.
The Metropolitan Police said: ‘This scheme assists us to understand the needs of the diverse communities we serve.’
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We think the Civil Service should represent the people we serve and we make no apology for that. Selection for permanent positions is available to all and is always based on fair and open competition.’