2020 is the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements to date and to think about how to continue making the Civil Service a great place to work. In this blog, I want to focus on carers.
Did you know that one in eight workers in the UK is a carer? Or that almost 67,000 civil servants identified as a carer in the last People Survey?
Our society is ageing, which means more of us are likely to become a carer at some point in our lives. This could mean looking after an elderly, sick or disabled friend or relative or a disabled child and in some cases more than one person. This is a change that can come without warning and have a significant impact on our life and work.
What are we doing now?
In the Civil Service, we want to build an inclusive culture where carers not only have the right support but also have a sense of belonging, are able to be their authentic selves and feel that they have a voice.
This is why, over the last six months, we have engaged with departments, champions and our carers networks to develop a Civil Service Carers’ Strategy. This comprises an overall vision and four priority areas covering a five-year period.
Priority 1. To create a culture where people feel supported in combining work and caring. We are looking at how best to capture data on HR systems, so that we can monitor the impact of policies on carers. We will also be encouraging departments to have a carers’ champion to lead their carers’ agenda.
Priority 2. To engage with carers to improve how HR policy takes account of their needs. Carer networks do a fantastic job across the Civil Service bringing carers together to discuss issues of common concern and helping them to support each other. We want to tap into this knowledge and engage with these networks to see where policies can be improved.
Priority 3. To promote the take-up of new and existing carer provision. Caring can be hard to plan for, and what is required can vary. We want to make sure the passport and the charter are available across all departments and agencies. We will also promote manager training materials to increase understanding of the issues carers face.
Priority 4. To develop and recognise departmental provision. It is really encouraging that seven organisations have already achieved accreditation, with more looking to apply during 2020. We will continue to support departments to obtain Carer Confident recognition and to develop their carer provision. In addition, we will work closely with Carers UK, the Charity for Civil Servants and others to ensure we learn from wider best practice.
What have we done so far?
Last November, I was delighted and proud to attend the Celebrating Carers event run by the Civil Service Carers Network. It was great to celebrate the work carers do and I heard a number of powerful and moving personal stories from colleagues who are carers. The key message from the event was that every carer’s story is unique and there are huge challenges in combining work and caring responsibilities. Many speakers highlighted the importance of an empathetic and understanding line manager who could work with them to put in place appropriate support in the workplace.
To increase awareness of what is already available, we have introduced the carers’ charter to signpost you to policies and information that can help. All 18 main departments have adopted this, along with a range of other Civil Service organisations. Look for it on your local intranet.
I also continue to encourage all carers to engage with their line manager and complete a carer’s passport. This will be a formal record of the support needed to combine work and caring. This might include flexible working to attend appointments, access to a quiet room at work to take personal phone calls, or a plan of action should you have to leave work in an emergency. I would recommend you take a few moments to look at the video we have developed to help carers and their managers understand how a passport can help and the kind of adjustments to think about.
The carers’ charter and the carer's passport are just two initiatives to support carers. I know departments do much more. This is being recognised through the Carer Confident benchmarking scheme. I am delighted the Cabinet Office, the Department for Transport and the Foreign Office recently joined HMRC, DWP, MoJ and Public Health England as Civil Service organisations accredited under the scheme.
What will happen next?
During the Year of Inclusion, we will be publishing personal stories from carers to raise awareness of this important agenda and to spread best practice. We will also mark Carers’ Week in June by publishing an update on the progress we have made in implementing the strategy.
How can you get involved?
I would like to get your feedback, suggestions and ideas in two areas.
- How can we build on the four priorities to really make a difference for carers?
- What does carers’ inclusion mean to you?
Please post your ideas below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org