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Three centuries of coal miners and one senior civil servant

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, Diversity and inclusion
Head and shoulders of Andrew Rhodes
Andrew Rhodes, Director-General, Operations, and Social Mobility Champion, DWP


When Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux asked me to be the department’s social mobility champion I didn’t immediately know how I felt about it. To an extent I think you make your own luck, but then I really started to wonder.

Social mobility can be defined as the relationship between our starting point in life and where we end up as adults, usually in relation to income, occupation and status.

The more I reflected on this, the more I came to see that not only is social mobility the life-blood of our department, but failing to become good at this will ultimately undermine the Civil Service. If we believe it is a good thing for the Civil Service to broadly reflect the society it serves, then we must think much more broadly about diversity. This matters to me because I see it reflected in my own life and career.

'A great place to work' logoIn April this year, I was appointed Director-General for Operations at DWP, responsible for 74,000 colleagues across the country - colleagues who work hard to deliver vital services for some of the most vulnerable people in society and many others who simply need our help. Together, we help our customers defy their own expectations every day. I am immensely proud to work with them.

I’m the first male in my family, in a straight line from 1704 to now, not to be a coal miner. I am also the first person in my family to go to university. Many years of my youth were in a home dependent on benefits. These facts don’t define who I am, just where I started from.

I didn’t expect to get where I am. When I first tried to join the Senior Civil Service, I was told I had little prospect of success or of much of a career. Not because of ability but because I was based in Wales and if I wanted to get on I really needed to “go and do a policy job in London”. I was actually laughed at when I challenged this view. Wow! That’s a massive chunk of the Civil Service you’re saying has no high-level career prospect here. It was a ridiculous thing to tell me, but I didn’t know or think any better at the time.

Right now, across the Civil Service, we want to make sure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic background, has the same access to opportunities to fulfil their potential and rise to a leadership role, if that is their aspiration. There are many views, perspectives and personalities we do not yet tap into because we are not socially diverse enough. The reality, though, is that many organisations, including ours, naturally default to seeking and promoting people who look like the people who are already there, or fit a stereotype. For me, the true value in social mobility is the way it introduces a wider range of perspectives, values and abilities.  

If we are to continue to succeed, we need to ask ourselves what a person brings, not the silent tyranny of wishing we had more in common, or that they fitted a profile or went to a particular school or university. I’m lucky to have met and worked with some people who felt the same.

So, I will definitely be completing the survey of socio-economic background in the SCS. It’s now my turn to work hard at making social mobility a reality for DWP and the wider Civil Service. It won’t be easy but if everything was easy, they wouldn’t need us, would they?

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  1. Comment by Dakota posted on

    Please be careful that in promoting social mobility, it does not sound like we are looking down at people for being from where they are from. My first reaction when I read the title of this blog was: 'what's wrong with coal miners?'

    Please do not be alarmed at my feedback. I just want to help things to be perceived better.

  2. Comment by Robert Lee Speed posted on

    Sir Bobby Robson, the England and, of course, Newcastle United manager, was born not far from where I live, a previous coal-mining area. During his tenure at Newcastle United, he actually took his first team down a pit to show them exactly what went on and the conditions they faced during their working week.

    Part of this education was to make them feel lucky about what they did, the money they earned and what a privilege it was to be a footballer for a living. It strikes me that most of them need a refresher, when most of them on the pitch are millionaires, obsessed with hair cuts and pluck thier eyebrows!

    My point here is that not just senior civil servants should go 'back to the front' as you did, but also many middle manager civil servants based in Whitehall or elsewhere who are completely out of touch with the 'frontline'.

  3. Comment by Karen posted on

    I enjoy reading these kind of blogs so thank you for sharing Andrew. I too would like to progress further in the Civil Service but I live quite a distance from the central belt in Scotland. I would be happy to travel as required now that my children are grown but unfortunately there are not many jobs advertised as National locations. Everyone seems to want someone on site (in the central belt, Glasgow or Edinburgh) even although we have Lync, video conferencing, telekit and many other digital ways of communicating. I fear we do not yet have the courage of our digital convictions for advertising vacancies.

  4. Comment by AJ posted on

    For a change I come from a family of steelmakers on Teesside in the North East and was the first in my family to go to University. Alas you are probably aware that this industry is practically extinct here now, as opportunities in the Civil Service soon will be. Govt Depts are pulling out of Teesside and consolidating in to Newcastle (55 miles away) or Leeds (75 miles away). An earlier blogger mentioned local government, well all of the local authorities here have been hit with cuts ranging from 40% to 60% - so no joy there either. I left my last Govt Dept as I was actually told I was being penalised in PMR because I lived and worked here. I was told that I had to find some opportunities to schmooze SCS people. I was leading a team that had exceeded increased targets year on year, whilst staff and resources reduced. The issue for me is one of fairness and being recognised for doing a good job no matter where you are based and you shouldn't have to schmooze anyone to get.

  5. Comment by Sarah posted on

    Thank you Blog Team. This stood out from the Bridge Group exec summary:

    "...However, in relation to socio-economic diversity, the Fast Stream is unrepresentative of the population at large. To put this in context, the profile of the intake is less diverse than the student population at the University of Oxford.".

    Their findings seem to relate mostly to how we recruit to the Fast Stream in the future. Are there any plans to tackle the legacy problem this reveals we have now?

  6. Comment by Sarah posted on

    Any plans to look at the socio-economic (and educational) backgrounds of fast stream entrants? Would be good to know whether we are recruiting from a sufficiently diverse range of social backgrounds which reflect a variety of life experiences?

  7. Comment by David Franks posted on

    "Right now, across the Civil Service, we want to make sure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic background, has the same access to opportunities to fulfil their potential and rise to a leadership role, if that is their aspiration" (Andrew); so you, like me, then, think that the likes of embRACE and the Positive Action Pathway should be dissolved, because positive discrimination for one group of people is negative discrimination for everyone else.

    And "this will ultimately undermine the Civil Service" (Andrew) as positions do not always go to the most competent people.

    But, having majored in anthropology, I'd go a step further than this and say that, in effect, discriminating against indigenes, content to do their bit in their native land, is a disgusting thing to do.

    • Replies to David Franks>

      Comment by S posted on

      Positive ACTION is different from positive DISCRIMINATION. The former is about levelling the playing field - something which is most definitely still needed.

      You'd be hard pressed to find any "indigenes" - we're a country of diverse heritage and all the better for it.

  8. Comment by ellie posted on

    The article was interesting and is good to see someone getting on. My faimily come from a long line of miniers and most still live in Wales. I am disabled, and even thought I have qualifications coming out of my ears jobs always go to someone whom has no experiance. I have found that unless you are a friend or as they say your face fits you never get any where. After seventten years in a job and going for several interviews I have not got any further in my career.

  9. Comment by Tony H posted on

    An interesting article, and it's crucial that all have opportunities, and are encouraged and supported in taking them.
    Not entirely relevant, but also interesting, that there are now more Senior Civil Servants in the country than there are (deep) coal miners. Changing times.

  10. Comment by alex lisle posted on

    Fascinating subject and a most encouraging blog.

    I was watching a favourite old film of mine the other night 'Hobson's Choice' and the barely literate boot maker, Will Mossop, (played by John Mills) was copying out a text his better educated, ambitious wife had set for him before bed - 'There is always room at the top'. And together that was where they were heading. Turning to real life we've just had a prime minister frequently mocked for his priviledged upbringing and now a Mayor of London who is the son of an immigrant bus driver.

    So it would appear then both in fiction and fact that whilst money and background can offer certain advantages, apart from possibly grinding poverty, what is there to really hold a person back if they are determined to succeed?

    Having said that, defining what we are by what we achieve or how far we have come in the process is to apply only a temporal measure with no guarentee of happiness as an outcome. Of greater merit is surely how we conduct ourselves throughout it - though not suggesting these are in any way mutually exclusive objectives. Indeed when you think about the two terms here - 'social' and 'mobility' to be truely laudable they have to encompass both.

  11. Comment by E Stretton posted on

    Great Article and thanks for sharing your view Andrew!

    How do I get you to be my mentor?

  12. Comment by Geoff M posted on

    Call me cynical but it will take quite a lot to convince me that the Civil Service's new found
    commitment to social mobility is anything more than window dressing, driven by poor staff surveys. My department sounds more like Roedean, and Cheltenham Ladies' Colleges on steroids these days. Diverse it isn't. As someone who comes from a southern english white-working class background it's an extremely hostile environment.

    I do not detect any inclination from my department to change, far from it. And, as I don't have the linguistic abilities to fake posh (as colleagues have been forced to do), I don't see myself getting any where fast, or slowly either.

  13. Comment by LITTLE LONDONER posted on

    There are good quality policy jobs in the MOD at the Defence Equipment and Support HQ at Abbey Wood, Bristol. Many of these are vacant and have been for a while. In addition there are good openings for fast stream scientists, engineeres and accountants. It is one of the biggest civl service hubs outside London.

  14. Comment by Jennie Knott posted on

    It is heartening that Andrew has made such a success of his career and didn't accept that he could not succeed due to his geographical location. It says a lot about him that he didn't give up trying because "wiser heads" than his told him he wouldn't be able to rise as high as he has. Good for him!

  15. Comment by Racheal Commodore posted on

    You can become what you want to become if you set your mind to it. It doesn't matter where you have been. The end justifies the means.

  16. Comment by Jim Simpson posted on

    I'm from a working class background and proud of it. I'm proud it defines who and what I am. I don't aspire to escape from my class or climb up a so called social ladder. The whole "social mobility" agenda is predicated on the premise that those of us who are working class should want to become something else.
    I want to live in a society where the working class, by hand or by brain, enjoy the full fruits of the of the wealth that they create.
    As a famous and unfairly maligned philosopher and economist once said "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win".

  17. Comment by Penny Dunbabin posted on

    Thank you for a thought provoking article. Many people have commented that the civil service now employs far fewer AO's and therefore that the promotion route for talented individuals who don't have degrees has been cut off and this is certainly true. Our team had an excellent AO who was contracted from an agency, who attempted to join the civil service several times but was not able to. He was, however, working well above his grade. (He left, eventually, for a post outside the civil service).

    The other point worth noting, is that now, nearly 50% of school leavers go on to university, which was not the case 20 years ago; this may well change now that grants for students from low-income families have been replaced by loans.

  18. Comment by Leon posted on

    Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. Abraham Lincoln

  19. Comment by Darren Gerrard posted on

    The miners of this nation were the absolute salt of the earth and created huge amounts of wealth,also they were an inspiration to the Labour movement by teaching us the value of solidarity.
    You must be very proud of your family history

  20. Comment by Amanda posted on

    Do people really in 2016 sit about with their colleagues "wishing we had more in common, or that they fitted a profile or went to a particular school or university." It you have only met "some" people who do not feel that, I'm very disappointed! Everyone brings 'baggage' to work and unconscious bias training can be helpful - but baggage can take many forms. As a fast streamer I was told off by my DD for 'discussing opera with the AA' as that was 'elitis't. That AA had forgotten more about opera than I will ever know..... I think we just need to see people as people, each of equal worth - and while trying to be aware of unconscious attitudes keep it to the basics of treating everyone as you would wish to be treated yourself.

  21. Comment by Dylan Hughes posted on

    I too come from a Coal Mining family going back many generations up here in North Wales so found this article very interesting. But unfortunately things hav'nt moved on that much as being based in Wrexham we basically have no chance to further our career unless we move out of the area or wait until we're forced into one of the regional centres as there is a hold on advances because we are being closed in a few years. We get a lot of notification for jobs and the majority within Sols are in London.

  22. Comment by Gavin Low posted on

    It's good we're having this debate but I really don't think the actions of the Civil Service are meeting its words. Here we have an SCS from a working class background saying "you make your own luck". The SCS from DCMS who wrote a blog said "my working class background has never been a barrier." Neither have really proposed any practical ways we can tackle the elitism built into the Civil Service.

    Ok, there's a few apprenticeships around and we're trying to get a more diverse range of young people in that way. But one of the key routes into the Civil Service - entering in a lower-graded job and subsequently getting promoted (which is how I got into the CS) - has been almost destroyed. We've lost thousands upon thousands of lower graded jobs due to the cuts over the past 8 years. PS/PA jobs have been decimated. Messenger services, print/repro, reception, facilities etc have been privatised and given to low-paid contractors who aren't civil servants and therefore can't apply for CS jobs. Unless you get on the faststream (or get an Apprenticeship) its extremely difficult to get into the CS now - and the faststream is dominated by the children of the wealthy middle classes.

    I do think the CS is trying, and this is positive, but the bigger problem is that classism is rife in society: in the professions, in politics, in education & academia. We'll never truly solve the problem until inequality in society is addressed; something which looks extremely unlikely at the moment.

  23. Comment by Julie posted on

    Andrew, thank you for an interesting blog. I fear you're right that Departments (particularly mine) "default to seeking and promoting people who look like the people who are already there, or fit a stereotype" - here that's young, middle-class, highly educated and "going places", and I'm none of those. I would like to think that this work will go some way towards challenging the assumptions of what might be "the best person for the job".

  24. Comment by Alan Lewis posted on

    This is vacuous propaganda. If there was any serious intention to change this state of affairs there would already be service-wide schemes to assist people disadvantaged by class, grade and age, as there are for race and gender. Highlighting one person's success in attracting tokenistic patronage from the ruling elite merely emphasises the extent of the injustices which need to be addressed with real funding and more staff. You don't employ more working class people by cutting jobs by a third and any suggestion to the contrary from someone feebly compliant with such measures is insincere rhetorical humbug.

  25. Comment by Dee posted on

    When I joined the DHSS 40+ years ago aged 17, the offices were full of interesting people ( eccentics some might say!). They taught me more than school ever did. People from all different backgrounds, interests, life experiences, creeds, colour ,intellects. Customers taught me as much as my colleagues. I learned more from the AAs than the Managers. To get on though you had to get on your bike both as a benefit customer and as a Civil Servant & , like Dick Whittington , leave home & head for an HQ. 40 years on few things have changed for the better .Opportunities have reduced because there are fewer sites , fewer staff & fewer positions to aim for. In this area we have to move Departments to go to the MOD if you want to get on. MOD appear to have a more flexible way to apply for jobs in any grade. I would like to see the stats for promotions within MOD compared to DWP.Like in the early days, I realised people with no academic quailifications could have more common sense than a graduate.They could follow legislation & get the job done .They could analyse & organise with natural ability.They didn't progress because they were not brilliant at selling themselves on paper, and that is again the only way to apply for a new post.We need to stop formulaic applications and allow Managers the freedom to recommend individuals on the ability shown on the job. Across all Government Agencies.

    • Replies to Dee>

      Comment by chris posted on

      When I joined the Dept 35 years ago there was a truly diverse bunch of people in my Local Office. This was, in part, responsible for me staying on (after my casual contract period elapsed) together with feeling I was part of a well trained team who made a difference to peoples lives - yes, it's true I thought and used words like this back then including saying my job was to provide value for the taxpayer.
      However, I feel there was more bias back then to be in the mould of a civil servant to 'get on' and I honestly think things have changed for the better in this respect but more can be done I think.
      No, everything is not perfect and to be frank we've gone through some 'fashionable' changes that clearly didn't work - But nowhere's perfect as they say

  26. Comment by Al posted on

    I always like to read a good success story like this, but in reality, they are few and far between, especially in the more junior grades of the Civil Service. The opportunities for those of us without a university education are simply no longer there. The amount of times I've been told I won't progress because of my academic background (O-levels, a couple of A-levels and a BTEC) is very demoralising. I have 28 years experience in my industry, but alas, that no longer counts for much.

  27. Comment by Frank posted on

    While the blog sounds sympathetic, my problem with the 'social mobility' agenda is that it creates the illusion that everyone can rise to the top of only we work hard enough, and that that is something that we should all aspire to. Of course, it is a good thing that an SCS position doesn't depend on having gone to Oxbridge (and having parents who went there too), but...

    The simple fact is that most of us will never get there, because an organization such as the civil service will always have more workers than leaders. The number of people manning the job centres and doing the actual work on the ground will always vastly outnumber the director-generals. Social mobility does absolutely nothing for those who, for whatever reason, just end up in a bog-standard normal job.

    A real inclusive civil service would make sure that those in the lower grades are looked after properly, paid well and given the opportunity to find dignity and satisfaction in their work. Not just focus on the background of the few who make it to the top brass.

  28. Comment by Claire Jenkins posted on

    I am also the first person in my family to have gone to University, and I am also based in Wales. I couldn't agree more with this article. We have an excellently diverse workforce in the CS - something to be celebrated. The importance of ensuring the best talent is able to be promoted regardless of location is so important - and I'd like to think that all the remote working options that we now have to hand make this an even more viable prospect now.

  29. Comment by Kevin posted on

    I like the article but I would even say that your starting point is just as important and it plays a part in defining who you are as well. I came from a working class family and it helps me a great deal in being adaptable and understanding the grass root society. I am proud of where I came from and I think we shouldn't feel that is something we shouldn't mention.

  30. Comment by Kim posted on

    You mentioned that when you first tried to enter the SCS that you were told there were little prospects of that because you were based in Wales. In order to achieve your success did you have to do as suggested and take on a policy role in London?

    What would be interesting to know is what career support you received to reach SCS. The oft repeated line that success is only dependant on hard work is false. People that do not fit the stereotype of a SCS by socioeconomic background, colour, gender and religion need high profile support to tear down those barriers.

  31. Comment by Working Class posted on

    Congratulations to Andrew on making it to the top in the Civil service, but here we are in the 21st century and this article is still newsworthy.

    Surely if the Civil Service was already a level playing field, then this would not even be a story, sadly Andrew 's success story and that of others from a working class background is still very rare in the service.

    Even less so for those without a University education and have tried to slog their way up through the ranks.

  32. Comment by Susan Peak posted on

    Excellent piece, both about the fact that background is simply where one starts from, and about the cultural assumptions in the Civil Service. I can relate: I had aunts in domestic service, and my background is solidly working class - I was also the first in my family to go to university. (I also have a disability: deafness.) The CS is much better at handling diversity than it used to be - and, in times of stress, it can revert. Progress shouldn't be taken for granted.

  33. Comment by Owen posted on

    Very refreshing to read the 5 words "if that is their aspiration". There does often seem to be an entrenched attitude that everyone must change / strive / want to climb the pyramid. For some people, especially those with personal, health, caring, mental health, etc issues stability and certainty where they are may be more important. This aspect of diversity is often overlooked or belittled in the plans and activities of the civil service.

  34. Comment by Nick posted on

    Well done Andrew. But, as a Wigan lad originally, I sense that mining communities and families were often aspirational and ambitious, even if lacking the money, infrastructure and connections to break out. I suspect that the breakdown of strong, place-industry communities may have as much to do with lack of social mobility as the bread-winner's occupation.
    On the subject of regional opportunities in the Civil service - there's always local government of course. It has a branch in every town!

  35. Comment by Harriet posted on

    Thanks for sharing this,Andrew, it's really interesting to hear more on this issue. I am really curious about what you ended up doing to get to where you are now - did you go to London and a policy job in the end or did you find progression through an alternative route?

    • Replies to Harriet>

      Comment by Andrew Rhodes posted on

      Hi Harriet - no, I never did go on to a policy job in London. I still live in Wales and have always done national jobs. I do travel a lot, but that's because I believe in spending time in the business.

  36. Comment by DA posted on

    As someone who also comes from a coal mining family, this really resonates with me. However, recent moves by some Government Departments to centralise policy functions in London leaves me wondering whether we are reverting back to a culture of only those in London will reach the dizzy heights of the SCS.

    I have worked most of my career to date in local government and I'm relatively new to the civil service. II love my job, 'm proud that I am a Grade 6 and I feel a great sense of personal achievement in getting to this position. That said, I'm not convinced about my prospects of moving up the ladder in the civil service because of long standing cultural issues that exist.

  37. Comment by L Hammond posted on

    ' I didn't know or think any better at the time' Do you believe that what you were told about London still stands up ? ; You do not say how you progressed from the wilds of Wales .

    • Replies to L Hammond>

      Comment by Andrew Rhodes posted on

      Hi - no, I never took a policy job in London and I never moved away from Wales. I couldn't fit it all in with a word limit to explain in the blog, but basically I did operational jobs with a national remit, which is exactly what I do now. I am not London-based. In that sense, I never progressed from the wilds of Wales.

  38. Comment by Mike Glassey posted on

    Interesting article Andrew, thanks. I'm also the first male in my direct family line not to have been a miner. I'm also the first to own their own home. I didn't go to University but instead joined DWP at 18 and I've been here ever since. I've undertaken lots of roles including Operations, IT, Internal Audit, Supplier Management, and Security, and progressed as I've gone along.

    I'd like to think I dont fit the stereotype, but recognise that we have to adapt and compromise as we go on. Equally, you could call that development and gaining perspective, depending on how you view things.

  39. Comment by Martin cook posted on

    Why isn't this being addressed to all grades within the First Division remit (6 and 7 in my Dept, HMRC)?
    Not everyone wants to get to SCS.
    But these are grades which you can either reach via an internal career ( and maybe go on to SCS etc., or Graduate or other recruitment.
    I think you would better understand Social Mobility in the Civil Service by extending this outside one particular 'elite'.

  40. Comment by Mike Bedford posted on

    Great blog but sadly the old bias of 'to really get on in your career you need to move to London and get a policy job' still holds true I am afraid. Until Government recognises this and acts on it change will come slow if it comes at all.

  41. Comment by Colin (former Miner (BA Hons) posted on

    Interesting blog in part, but hardly groundbreaking. I work for DWP and live and work in Barnsley, South Yorkshire where many of our past MPs, Sporting heroes, respected pillars of the community have direct links to mining, steel and other indusries. Indeed, it used to be said that when Barnsley Football Club went searching for their next star they simply had to shout down a nearby mine shaft. My main question would be that we are informed thatmany of the estates contracts are soon to expire, how much (if any) consideration will socio-economic factors be given when deciding the roles of office/building.
    Colin (former miner, BA (Hons)

  42. Comment by Sanjay posted on

    Very inspirational indeed

    Its the mindset to question the challenges and perceived wisdom and make your own way in life and to succeed. To share your story and help others along the way is simply superb

    People in all professions come from all walks of life - the main thing is they start somewhere, adapt and keep going

  43. Comment by Garey Lennox posted on

    Unfortunately those of us who are black cannot choose to turn off our background,, and iwe rarely get to positions where it makes a good tag line. Disadvantage for black colleagues is par for the course within most of the civil service , with whole institutions passivly, or otherwise, supporting it.

    • Replies to Garey Lennox>

      Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

      FAO Garey Lennox

      I dont think that the issue of ethnicity is relevant to the subject being debated. I am disabled and i KNOW i dont fit in to the sterotypical pigeon hole. For example i am profoundly deaf. people will think ahhh so she will be using sign language. But i dont. Apart from one or two od the rude BSL signs!!!

      However my various disabilities have nothing to do with the issue of class/socio economic backgrounds being discussed here, and in the same context i dont think the issue of ethnicity does either. However i DO agree that people with disabilities and from ethic backgrounds are still underwhelmingly appreciated. And as a consequence careers are stunted as a result.

      • Replies to Charlotte Smith>

        Comment by Rachel posted on

        Charlotte, social mobility can't be viewed in isolation. There is the issue of intersectionality. So Garey is intitled to his views which are based on his experience. It is not for people who do not experience the same issue to tell him that it has nothing to do with social mobility. It is inextricably linked. A lot of BAME people came here and were forced into working class positions that nobody wanted, despite the big promises that were made. Their descendents suffer from the position their families were foced into. They also suffer because of the colour of their skin. The race issue can be mitigated to some extent if you come from a higher socio-economic grouping and go to the right school. So yes, race has a lot to do with social mobility if you are bame.

  44. Comment by Claire posted on

    A thought provoking blog - thanks. But it made me wonder, what exactly is wrong with being coal miner? Not a pleasant job to be sure, but a very important one. We need to be careful in talking about social mobility not to suggest that these essential roles are not valued. We all use the services of call centre workers, plumbers, gardeners etc. I'd like to see these roles better respected and properly rewarded. And I agree with Charlotte that in the Civil Service we need much better distribution of HQ and policy jobs round the country - the vast majority of them do not need to be in London and it would actually be more cost effective to locate them elsewhere.

  45. Comment by Sarah Foreman posted on

    I am also from coal mining stock and very proud of it, I has defined me.

  46. Comment by William posted on

    It's refreshing to read about senior civil servants with genuine life experience and perspective.

  47. Comment by James posted on

    Andrew - a good blog. What would help is if more Government policy jobs were moved outside of London. It is unfortunate that some Departments (e.g. BIS) are taking the opposite approach and centralising all of the policy functions in London - limiting opportunities to only those who are mobile and can afford accommodation in London.

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by David posted on

      In my experience, if you're not willing to live in London or travel there on a regular basis, you're stuffed in terms of advancing your career, not just in the Civil Service but in most walks of life. It's a shame if, like me, you don't much care for the place!

  48. Comment by Kumar posted on

    A great success and from such humble beginnings. This is a great example of how a true meritocracy should be. Unfortunately if you from an ethnic minority, it is much harder to achieve that same success.
    A recent report found racial inequality remained "entrenched" in Britain.
    The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which analysed existing evidence, said black graduates earn on average 23% less than white ones and are far more likely to be unemployed(BBC).
    Coal dust can be washed way to reveal the person behind it. However, if you from an ethnic minority, it appears from the evidence that you are disadvantaged from birth. And our colour cannot be washed away!

  49. Comment by Darren Irvine posted on

    Totally agree that personal attributes and skills are more important than where you went to University (if at all!) but in real reality it's a factor. I think we're led to believe sometimes that we're unbiased in the CS when in fact no one can be that perfect.

    The way we initially test candidates (through sift) for roles is off putting for many who want to apply for roles in areas such as fast stream.

    You only need to look on CS jobs to see that you do need to be based in the South to have an opportunity to progress up the ladder. Yes, there's an odd few senior posts in other areas, but very little.

    I hope the survey provides useful data, but like many surveys conducted I fear that a report will be written on the outcome and will sit on a shelf to gather dust.

    On a more positive note the Civil Service is probably the most diverse employer, and that's something we should celebrate more.

  50. Comment by Lisa posted on

    As the daughter of a Yorkshire coal miner and a northern accent that stands out in my London workplace I enjoyed reading this blog. Thanks.

  51. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    An interesting article. I do hope this survey will mean that more DWP HQs are more evely distributed around the country and not have everything based in London. In this day and age where security is an issue, is it not better to scatter your eggs and not keep them all in the same basket?!!

    And also it will enable more people to apply for the top job's and a chance to be the cat's whiskers and lap up the cream if jobs were not all in London and more evenly distributed around the country more. It would be much fairer and not bias towards those already living in London and the Home Counties. Liverpool and Manchester for example would make excellent regional civil service hubs. In addition to Leeds which has Quarry House and Newcastle.

  52. Comment by Bill posted on

    Your background is not important on where you can go and achieve.

    What is important is if there are actually posts to apply for, and then if there are, if your face fits with the powers that be.

    Life in DWP HQ may be different, but in the jobcentre network these are facts of life.