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Social Mobility - are you playing your part?

When Charlotte's brother, Sam passed away, his friends set up a GoFundMe page for a memorial bench

I mulled over how to begin this blog for some time. I asked myself – will anyone listen to what I have to say? I decided – of course they will, so get writing!

I grew up in a working-class household, with three siblings and a single mum. We lived in a council house – one my mum expertly agreed to, as it was in the catchment area of a ‘good school’ – and were on benefits and free school meals.

School was tough, but I enjoyed learning and did very well in my exams. At the time, my biggest passion was singing and acting, and all I wanted to do was perform in the West End. However, as cautious as ever, I decided to stick to doing my A levels and I thought I would pursue drama school at 18 instead.

Fast forward a year and a half to drama school auditions. At £45 per audition, they obliterated the savings I had from my part-time job, but I was accepted into my dream school. I was thrilled. That was until I re-read the letter and realised that there are no loans for drama school. You must pay £10,000 upfront each year.

As we didn’t have the money, I applied for their only scholarship. It was whittled down to three people, but I just missed out. My story shows that having no money leads to many missed opportunities. This was the first one that really got me down. I lost hope.

Charlotte says a tough background can help you prosper

I didn’t want to go to university as the thought of accumulating around £30,000 worth of debt was terrifying. I didn’t think I’d get anywhere in my career without a degree. I just wanted to help my family have a better life, but I didn’t know how.

The money troubles didn’t stop there – I remember my mum telling us to wrap up in excessive amounts of clothing just to avoid putting the heating on because she simply couldn’t afford it.

I had to say no to my friends when they asked me to join them at the cinema, making up an excuse that I wasn’t feeling well. Or I'd tell them that I didn’t like the film they’d picked, just to avoid putting financial pressure on my mum. There were dance lessons that had to be stopped because they couldn’t be paid for anymore, and school trips missed.

Personal tragedy

Recently, tragedy struck and my little brother, Sam, suddenly passed away. We not only had to deal with an immense amount of grief but we were also left wondering… how are we going to pay for the funeral, for the send-off that Sam deserves? Sam’s incredible friends set up a GoFundMe page, with the aim of raising money for a memorial bench and paying towards the funeral. We will forever be grateful.

I felt the need to include this here to highlight the endless difficulties of having very little money, and the constant barriers most working-class people face. Even when it comes to funerals.

Charlotte and sister Olivia who both climbed Ben Nevis to honour Sam, a memory that fills her with pride

I’m proud to say that my sister, Olivia and I have since climbed Ben Nevis in Scotland in honour of our brother, Sam. It was a terrifying experience, but one I will look back on with immense pride.

Perseverance pays off
Even though I thought my background would hold me back, I was determined to succeed and, realising my passion for making a difference, I started applying for the Civil Service. I finally hit the jackpot when I was offered my first role in the Cabinet Office.

Charlotte Bedford 1Since joining the Civil Service in February 2019, I have helped create an online platform for the Fast Stream Assessment Centre, I’ve supported three Government Ministers at the Department for Transport, and I’ve been promoted to Private Secretary to a Director General. I also volunteer as a wellbeing ambassador for my group, and sit on the Diversity and Inclusion working group. This helps me to shape policy for the Department, rather than just Government policy, which I find extremely rewarding.

Presently, I’m undertaking the Level 4 Policy Officer Apprenticeship, and have recently given a speech during National Apprenticeship at an Apprenticeship Open Evening event. The audience consisted of charities and students across the country, and I like to think I inspired at least one person to consider an apprenticeship.

First home

Away from work, my partner and I are currently buying our first home – something I still cannot get my head around. The point I am making here is that being from a working-class background does not mean you cannot succeed. It presents challenges, but we will prosper because of our background, not despite it.

There is still a perception that the Civil Service is for the elite – trust me. If my blog inspires you to act, consider doing some outreach at schools in working class areas, or consider taking on an apprentice. Do your part to challenge the social mobility issues we face today.

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  1. Comment by Sean davin posted on

    What a valuable blog Charlotte which touched and resonated with me. My condolences for your loss and my congratulations for sharing an inspiring story showing us we can prosper not in spite of our background but because of it. I am sure everyone is proud of u especially mum

  2. Comment by Eamonn Moyles posted on

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too joined the CS, 30+ years ago, from a non conventional working class background and have benefited greatly from the opportunities which have come my way as part of my career. Whilst we both missed university at 18, my department (MOD) eventually paid for me to gain a degree and then later a masters part time. Watch out for those development opportunities when they come, which they will given your obvious talents, and grab them with both hands. Best of luck.

  3. Comment by Janet Walmsley posted on

    An inspirational and thoughtful blog Charlotte, thank you for sharing.

    • Replies to Janet Walmsley>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you so much, Janet!

  4. Comment by Clare Dedman posted on

    Really inspiring blog, Charlotte. Thank you for sharing your experience and positivity.

    • Replies to Clare Dedman>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      No problem at all! Thank you for your lovely comment, Clare.

  5. Comment by Natasha Gorman posted on

    Wow your blog left me with shivers Charlotte! I have an almost identical story to yours and I'd love to get in touch with you; have a chat and share some ideas...


    • Replies to Natasha Gorman>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks so much Natasha! I'm really happy you enjoyed reading my blog and that it resonated.
      I'd be more than happy to chat, although not sure I'm able to share my email address here. I think I've found you on LinkedIn, though, so happy to share my email address there! You can find me on there just under Charlotte Bedford, and I work at the DfT.

  6. Comment by Grant posted on

    I am in awe of you, Charlotte - you are a brilliant and inspirational colleague. Thank you so much for sharing your story, which resonates with me and many, many others.

    • Replies to Grant>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks so much, Grant, I really appreciate that!

  7. Comment by Shuhab Hamid posted on

    Nice one Charlotte, Well written and sorry to hear you lost your brother Sam .

    Keep up the hard work and you will continue to excel and succeed.

    The CS really is an inclusive place to work!

    • Replies to Shuhab Hamid>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Shuhab!

  8. Comment by Lesley posted on

    An inspiration to us all especially at the moment. Good luck and best wishes.

    • Replies to Lesley>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks so much, Lesley!

  9. Comment by Paul Downer posted on

    Such a lovely blog, Your journey really touched me. More power to you and your family,

    • Replies to Paul Downer>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks very much, Paul!

  10. Comment by John howell posted on

    I can remember walking the railway lines with my father picking up bits of coal that had fell off the trucks and when the gas man came to empty the meter, it would be full of tiddly-winks that had been filed down. I worked for a year for nothing but my travel, on the old Employment Training Scheme to get from factory to a position with an academic publisher. Inspired by the people around me I went to college and onto University, winning a scholarship and graduating at the age of forty two. It took me a long time to shed the effects of my socialisation, so I can really appreciate what you have managed to do. I really enjoyed your blog, I'm sure your experiences and success will inspire many. Well done.

    • Replies to John howell>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog, and it's wonderful to hear about your career journey. Thank you for such a lovely comment!

  11. Comment by Matthew Short posted on

    An inspiring story, tinged with sadness but also hope. A real demonstration of determination. You should be really proud.

    Also a real demonstration that the Civil Service and the FCDO can, and should be, a rewarding career option for people from any and every background.

    Good luck with the Apprenticeship. I hope as well you don't give up on your evident enthusiasm to get into drama. A close friend of mine took a year out later in her career to go to drama school and now continues it as a long term project (passion, really) alongside her Civil Service work. Similarly, I've met Civil Servants who are also Special Constables, Charity leaders, Magistrates, Reservists... it’s a real privilege to be able to have those opportunities.

    • Replies to Matthew Short>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you so much, Matthew, for your incredibly kind comment. Wow that's great to hear about your friend who does drama alongside the Civil Service - a real aim of mine once Covid allows drama and dance studios to open back up again!

  12. Comment by Kimberley webb posted on

    Amazing young women, someone for younger generations to look up to ❤️

    • Replies to Kimberley webb>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you so much!

  13. Comment by Shannonhughes posted on

    Your mum is going to be so proud of you ?

    • Replies to Shannonhughes>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you lovely!

  14. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Charlotte for sharing with us your personal journey.

    Really sorry to hear about Sam. I commend you and your family for finding a way during a difficult time to overcome the financial challenges that you were facing and ensure that you were able to celebrate his life.

    I was also disappointed to hear about how your financial situation affected your opportunity to realise your true passion and dream. I am glad that you did this to undermine your determination to succeed, and you looked to apply to join the Civil Service and was successful.

    I would agree that your findings that the Civil Service is not an elitist organisation, and that for anyone with the right level of drive and resolve, it can provide them with the platform to achieve their true potential.

    I wish you and your partner the best of luck with your purchase of your house, and wish you happiness and good health for the future.

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you, Gavin, for such a kind comment! I'm glad I was able to get past the disappointment and strive for a career in the Civil Service, as I absolutely love it.
      My aim is to encourage the Civil Service to employ more apprentices so we can start to mitigate the issues we see with social mobility, and for people with backgrounds like mine to realise that they can prosper, no matter what they may have been told growing up.

  15. Comment by Nicola Blatchford posted on

    Thank you so much for writing this honest and private Blog. Well done on all that you have achieved both in and out of work.

    • Replies to Nicola Blatchford>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thanks so much, Nicola!

  16. Comment by Trish McErlain posted on

    Charlotte as a single mum myself I know how proud your mum must be. I am sure like me she only ever wanted the best for her children and at times despaired at not being able to provide it.
    I admire your drive and determination, something I see in my own daughter, and wish you continued success in your chosen career.
    I work in HMRC and we have a fully supported apprenticeship scheme and I can only think it is a good thing.
    I hope your message reaches the people who can make a difference in our schools and communities ensuring more children hear your story and others like it so they start to believe their futures aren't decided based on things like where they come from, their home or family situation rather, on their own hard work and abilities.
    Hope and self belief are things to encourage and support.

    • Replies to Trish McErlain>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Trish. I agree completely with your first comment, and her wanting the best for us didn't go unnoticed.
      I'm really glad to hear of the success of apprenticeship schemes in other Departments, like HMRC. I hope we continue on this trajectory and continue to employ more apprentices year by year!

      That really is the aim - that children who think they are destined to fail due to their background, hear stories like mine and realise they can achieve so much!

  17. Comment by Debbie Hoy posted on

    So proud of what you have achieved Charlotte, you are certainly a young woman who is aiming high in everything you do, your family are so proud especially your Mum , wishing you all the success you deserve xx

    • Replies to Debbie Hoy>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you! 🙂

  18. Comment by Jeneen posted on

    You never cease to amaze me ... keep climbing you will reach the top !! Xx

    • Replies to Jeneen>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you so much Jeneen! 🙂

  19. Comment by Claire Bidwell posted on

    A brilliantly written blog Charlotte, really clarifying the sacrifices and missed opportunities you’ve had because of finances. And now you are up and running there’ll be no stopping you! Hopefully you’ll inspire a few more departments to offer apprenticeships. You are definitely capable of anything you set your mind to and making everyone proud in the process!

    • Replies to Claire Bidwell>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you, Claire, for your lovely comment. I really do hope so! I would love to see more apprenticeships offered across the Civil Service as they are an excellent way of introducing new talent into the organisation.

  20. Comment by Rebecca Shoobert posted on

    So very proud of you Charlotte and all you have achieved. Keep aiming high and never think you are not capable of anything, because you can do anything.

    • Replies to Rebecca Shoobert>

      Comment by Charlotte Bedford posted on

      Thank you so much! I hope to continue making you proud.