As well as being Director General for Benefits & Credits in HMRC, I’m proud to be HMRC’s Carers’ Champion.
This week is Carers Week, an opportune time to be reminded that caring, particularly with an ageing population, is something more of us are having to deal with. For this reason, it is also becoming more and more relevant to people at work, whether carers or their managers. I‘m delighted that HMRC has a staff carers’ network, to support people who find themselves with caring responsibilities that inevitably have to be juggled with work.
We currently have around 680 members in the network. A number of them use an online forum to discuss their concerns and generally share experiences. I have seen the difference the forum has made in the lives of some of our carers - which is why I enthusiastically welcome the support of Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary, for carer friendly communities in the Civil Service.
I understand that some people prefer to keep their caring commitments to themselves – but we do encourage people to consider contacting The Charity for Civil Servants for support. A number of people have applied for The Charity’s Carer’s Passport scheme. This enables staff to consider the support and adjustments they need at work and then have an open discussion with their manager about whether these, or perhaps alternative, adjustments can be made. Managers aren’t always able to make the adjustments staff feel would help – any flexibility must of course be balanced with getting the job done and overall business need - but at least a conversation has taken place and maybe help can be provided in other ways.
When I’m visiting HMRC offices around the country, I often bring carers together to check how things are going. During those visits I’ve met with people who’ve formed local groups to support each other and arranged for local charities to run advice sessions. Again, this has made a real difference.
Unfortunately, I can’t visit every office we have. So, I run live chat sessions on our carers’ forum that give people an opportunity to speak to me about balancing work with their caring responsibilities. The focus of the Carers Week discussion is how to raise the profile of the support that’s available to staff, which is in line with Sir Jeremy's pledge on the Carers Week 'Pledge Wall' .
I appreciate it’s not always easy to balance business needs with someone’s caring responsibilities, and a lot depends on the nature of the job. It can be difficult for carers and it can also be difficult for managers when they are required to make quite tricky judgements. But while there’s always room for improvement, generally I think carers and their managers in HMRC are pretty good at making these judgements and accommodating caring responsibilities. I often hear carers start their conversations with me by saying that they recognise and appreciate the flexibilities available.
Why not find out if your department has a carer support group – and if it hasn't, speak to your HR team about how you can set one up.