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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Ensuring support for our carers

image of young carer with a senior person

Three years after launching the Civil Service Carers’ Strategy, Alex Chisholm and Rebecca Sudworth, Civil Service Permanent Secretary Lead and Deputy Lead for Carers, provide an update on progress.   

Today marks the start of Carers Week 2023.

In the Civil Service, around a fifth of our colleagues are carers. They combine work with looking after an elderly relative, a child with a disability or a friend who depends on their support. The aim of our five-year Carers’ Strategy. which we launched in 2020, is to enable them to succeed in both their roles.

Today we are launching our third progress update. This sets out what we have achieved over the last year and our plans for the future.

National Carers WeekProgress in 2022-23

In this ‘Year of Implementation’, we have focused on ensuring that carers, their managers and our leaders know how to access our products. These include the carer’s passport, the carer’s passport video, the carers’ charter and our line manager toolkit.

Across the Civil Service, we have been running sessions to raise awareness of the line manager toolkit and the carer’s passport with hundreds of staff taking part.

We have continued to support departments and agencies to achieve Carer Confident accreditation. This benchmarking scheme assists employers to build a supportive and inclusive workplace for staff who are carers. This year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Group and the Food Standards Agency are newly accredited at Level 2. HM Revenue and Customs and the Ministry of Justice have renewed their Level 2 accreditation. Well done to the organisations which now have this recognition.

Forward priorities

Over the next two years, we will work to ensure that carers are able to access the support they need whether they work in a large department or a small agency.

Our priorities include a focus on the emotional impact of caring and what more we can do to help people best cope. This will form part of our wider work to support staff wellbeing. We have also identified the need to ensure a greater awareness of the challenges faced by our young adult carers. It is important that everyone recognises that young people can have significant domestic responsibilities.

Supporting line managers

This year’s update contains examples of the good work being done in departments to build awareness in their line managers.

If you are a manager of a carer, it is important to be as flexible as you can, to listen empathetically to the challenges they face and, when things change, to work with the carer to amend their carer’s passport. Look out for the line manager toolkit on your intranet.

We are grateful to Helen Waterworth of the Crown Prosecution Service for sharing her thoughts on line managing a carer.

Helen Waterworth of the Crown Prosecution Service
Helen Waterworth of the Crown Prosecution Service

So what makes a good line manager and how do you support your staff through the minefield of being a carer, a colleague and an individual in their own right?

When I was asked to do this blog by one of my team, I thought it would be easy to share what I do and why. How wrong was I!

This is much bigger than what I do. It comes from the culture of the organisation and the team you work for. I work for a digital team in the Crown Prosecution Service. We have a culture where staff wellbeing is as important as our job. I am a carer, myself. I have an autistic son so I have lived experience and can empathise, but as a line manager I must balance the needs of the business and the wellbeing of my staff. For me, this is where the organisation’s culture influences behaviours.

My main hope is that I am someone my team can come and talk to openly. Part of supporting anyone is being there, listening and understanding.  In a situation where there is sudden bad news, the anxiety of waiting for test results or where home life responsibilities are pulling you in every direction, I need to be the person you can come to and say. ‘I need help’. This help can be, ‘I need to be offline as I can’t face talking to anyone at the moment’, ‘I need to take a small break’ or ‘Can you tell the team for me?’

As line managers, we are given tools and training but, for me, the question I always ask is, ‘If that was me, what would my worries be and what would I want my line manager to do to help me?’

My approach has always been to be open and honest, to empathise and always ask what is needed from me. Trust is important – for both sides. I look to understand what the individual needs to stay well and stay in work and what work needs covering in their absence, be that short or long term. But I also need to know how I can help them manage their caring responsibilities every day and not just in a crisis. Work is one small part of a person’s life, but it has a massive impact on wellbeing and vice versa. Have I helped or hindered – I hope it’s never the latter.

If you are a carer, please reach out to your manager for support and look on your intranet for the resources available. There may also be events in your department for Carers’ Week that you could attend.

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  1. Comment by Andrew Lockley posted on

    There's some amazing stuff being done. However, it's a shame that none of Civil Service Live will be available online. Therefore, those carers who cannot get, will miss out

  2. Comment by Julie posted on

    I am so proud to work in DWP. As DWP successfully achieved Ambassador Level 3 Accreditation in the Carer Confident benchmarking scheme, becoming the first UK Government Department to achieve this.

  3. Comment by Angela Nolan posted on

    Totally appreciate everything Helen has said above - really resonates with me as I fully support her approach as one I use myself.

    Being a carer is one of the toughest roles you will play and if you have a supportive manager who is willing to provide the time to listen and help as much as practically possible whilst balancing the business needs it makes a huge difference.

    Thank you for sharing your insight.

  4. Comment by Gavin Thoms posted on

    Thank you Rebecca for promoting Carers Week and to Helen for sharing her experience both as a carer and Line Manager.

    Whilst I have never had to undertake a caring role, I have spoken with a number of colleagues who have such a role. Unfortunately, I am aware of a few colleagues who had a less than understanding and flexible Line Manager and who were left to struggle to juggle their day-to-day role and their caring responsibilities. Really concerned about the impact this was having on their mental health and wellbeing.

    Really encouraged that we have seen a massive change in the landscape and a number of colleagues being able to balance their caring role with their career.