PRESS NOTICE 21 July 2021

Civil Service Commission – annual report and accounts 2020 - 2021

The independent Civil Service Commission, which regulates Civil Service appointments to provide assurance that they are made on merit after fair and open competition, published its annual report for 2020 – 21 today.

The annual report contains a range of statistics and information about the Commission’s work including:

  • 60,487 people were recruited to the Civil Service through open and fair competition this year, up 53% on the previous year.
  • Commissioners chaired 163 competitions at senior levels this year, comparable with 161 in the previous year.
  • Black and minority ethnic candidates made up 23% of people recruited (SCS Pay band 2 and below) in 2020 – 2021, up from 19% in the previous year.
  • where declared 8% of people recruited reported having a disability, up from 6% in the previous year.
  • 121 Code appeals received this year. 
  • The Commission accredited 25 ‘Life Chance’ schemes to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds into Civil Service roles.

Ian Watmore, First Civil Service Commissioner, said:

“This is my final report as First Commissioner. Looking back, since the current Commission came together in 2016/17, the UK has faced unprecedented challenges – whether from Brexit and COVID-19, socio-economic tensions, security concerns or the increasing pace of science and technology – and it has been ever more dependent on its Civil Service to respond. 

“The Commission has played an important part in that response, acting as a flexible and pragmatic regulator, supporting the priorities of the government of the day, and working with Parliament to deliver the spirit of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.  It does that by relentlessly doing the day job well - setting Recruitment Principles, leading and auditing recruitments, promoting the Civil Service Code, seriously investigating appeals and complaints, being flexible when we can and standing up to abuses when we must. 

“And, as its ‘regulator’, we will continue to challenge the Civil Service strategically, to retain relevance and to be representative of the society it serves. 

“As First Commissioner, I am personally most proud of what we have been able to do to develop accreditation schemes to enable people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to become civil servants, providing them with life chances, improving the diversity and lived experience of the Civil Service, and supporting government priorities such as reducing reoffending or supporting veterans. From a standing start, and overcoming all the obstacles that inevitably cropped up, the Civil Service now has a sustainable model for recruiting individuals who previously were not accessible to them – ex-offenders, military veterans, care leavers, people with Down’s syndrome, and many others.

“It has been an honour to lead the Commission through this period. As the UK begins its recovery from this unique period in history, I believe its role providing public assurance on the integrity of Civil Service appointments, as well as offering challenge and support to the Civil Service, is as important today as it has ever been.”

Download the 2020 – 2021 annual report 

Watch our short videos

Notes to Editors

  1. Media enquiries about the work of the Commission should go to Maggie O’Boyle on 07880 740 627. 
  2. More information about the work of the Commission is available on its website www.civilservicecommission.independent.gov.uk
  3. You can also follow the Commission on twitter @CivServComm
  4. The Civil Service Commission was established as a statutory body in November 2010 under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Commission is independent of Ministers and the Civil Service. It is responsible for upholding the requirement that recruitment to the Civil Service is on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. 
  5. The Commission comprises senior figures from the private, public and third sectors. Civil Service Commissioners are appointed by the Crown for five-year non-renewable terms of office. The Cabinet Office is currently recruiting new Commissioners following an open competition.
  6. Ian Watmore’s 5-year term as First Civil Service Commissioner ends in September. The Cabinet Office will be advertising the First Commissioner post in due course. 

Naheed Hussain

In our eighth blog in this series, Naheed Hussain, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor - Legal Development - CPS, talks about her experience of working in the Civil Service.

About Naheed

Naheed is a Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor (DCCP) in CPS headquarters. She leads the Team that is responsible for the delivery of legal training to Solicitors and Barristers in the CPS. Before moving to CPS HQ, Naheed has held DCCP posts in the Specialist Fraud Division as well as in London, Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside.

What do you think the civil service needs to do to attract more candidates from a more diverse background into senior roles? What advice do you have for recruiters?

I think it's important we really highlight the excellent HR policies we have in place and also the wealth of support that is available from staff networks and colleagues. Like others who have contributed to this series, I also think seeing diverse role models at senior levels is vital too. When people think of joining the Civil Service, if they see senior leaders being open about their disabilities, particularly the non-visible ones - it demonstrates that the Civil Service applies its policies and lives up to them.

What could the civil service do better to attract and retain civil servants from a more diverse background overall (at any level)? What do you see as the barriers?

I think we could do a lot more community engagement work, particularly at schools for the 15+ age group. The diverse and wide-ranging job opportunities available in the Civil Service and the opportunities for career development are not as well understood in my experience in BAME or disabled communities. I think the approach recently taken by GCHQ to attract candidates with neurodiverse conditions should be explored by other Departments too.

What has been your personal experience of working in the civil service? What made a difference to you?

I acquired my non-visible disability neurodiverse conditions following an accident when I was already in the Civil Service at an SCS1 grade. My department has been wonderful in supporting me at my current grade. I have also had a lot of support from the FDA and the Disability Staff Network. What has made a real difference to me has been the understanding and support of my team and my peers.

Why is diversity particularly important at senior levels?

For me, it's about representing the country we serve. A diverse workforce - and diverse senior leadership team - means we can get the best from our people and deliver outcomes that better serve all the communities in this country.

What experiences did you have working at a senior level in the private sector? Are there lessons that the civil service can learn from the private sector in terms of recruiting staff from a more diverse background?

I can’t really answer this as I have no recent experience of working in the private sector. From what I hear from peers in the private sector, the Civil Service is way ahead, at least in the legal profession. 

What drives and motivates you in your career?

Essentially, I am motivated by the idea of public service. I want to do my best to contribute to a fair and effective criminal justice system.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?   

In my spare time, I enjoy paragliding, travelling, swimming (pre-Covid obviously), yoga, playing with my grandchildren, cooking and reading.

The second online disability event on Wednesday 28th April was aimed at both prospective candidates for Senior Civil Service roles who have a disability and hiring managers alike. The event was chaired by the Chief Executive of the Civil Service Commission, Peter Lawrence OBE. The panel of speakers included an independent Civil Service Commissioner, Rosie Glazebrook alongside Seonaid Webb MBE (Deputy Director, DEFRA and Deputy Disability Champion), Jo Oakley (CS Workplace Adjustments Service Team Leader) and John Knight (The Commission’s Disability Advisor).

The Civil Service Commission regulates recruitment into the Civil Service to make sure it is fair, open and merit-based. Commissioners personally chair recruitment competitions for senior roles.

The panel covered a range of topics of relevance, as well as giving hints and tips based on their own experiences:

  • What are the Recruitment Principles?
  • What do Commissioners look for?
  • Interview tips and guidance
  • Workplace Adjustments
  • Q&As throughout via Slido

The full recording of the event can be found through the link below:

In addition, there were a number of unanswered questions on Slido that the panel did not have time to address during the live event. The questions and answers can be found below:

1. Does the civil service have to hire a certain amount of people with disabilities into senior management? Do they positively discriminate in any way?

No, there are no targets for recruiting people with disabilities into senior management. The Civil Service does not positively discriminate on any protected characteristics, although there are often positive actions available such as mentoring or development programmes that help prepare people for the future.

2. How do you counter the self-limiting belief that questions whether you only got the interview because of your disability?

Your disability is a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you or limit what you can achieve. Know that you have met the minimum standards to progress to the interview stage through your skills, knowledge, experience and work ethic. Review your sift scores and any feedback. Speak to a coach/mentor/your line manager and take time to reflect on your CV, Behaviour examples and Personal Statement and everything you’ve achieved in your career to date. 

3. I'm curious, why is there such a heavy presence of psychologists and psychometric testing during these recruitment processes?

Any assessments included in the process are decided in order to enhance the evidence about candidates and are tailored to the role. 

4. When you are invited to interview - do they assess who goes forward simply from the interviews or do they take the application and interview into account?

All aspects of the evidence gathered during the process are taken into account.  If there have been assessments, questions relating to these may be asked in the final interview, together with the initial application and final interview. 

5. Do you have any tips for hiring managers who are recruiters on how to break down the perception barrier of DCS/GIS declarations on applications, being considered as unconscious bias and candidates not being progressed?

By ensuring there are diverse sift and interview panels who have completed the appropriate success profiles, disability confident and/or equality and diversity training. Anonymise this information from the sift process, and ensure the sift panel have set and agreed on a clear minimum standard or score prior to the sift taking place. Only share with the sift/interview panel the information they would need to be aware of as the candidate progresses through different stages of the recruitment process, e.g. if an individual was invited to interview the panel and those organising the interviews would need to be aware of any requested adjustments such as, for example, wheelchair access requirements, extended interview time, regular breaks etc.

6. Could a dyslexic person have interview questions in advance if they requested it as a reasonable adjustment? What are the Commission’s views on whether this gives them an unfair advantage over other candidates?

We would expect departments to consider each request for reasonable adjustments on its own merits, as well as considering whether one candidate is advantaged by the process. You would need to consider whether your process could be seen as creating a disadvantage to a person with a declared disability. The purpose of the Disability Confident scheme and reasonable workplace adjustments is to create a level playing field for someone with a disability. We would therefore expect you to consider the specific nature of the disability and take advice where necessary. Allowing sight of the questions shortly before the interviews, or granting additional time are all examples of reasonable workplace adjustments, as long as we can see the justification for using them, the Commission would be content.

One consistent record of the interview should be retained by the department, agreed by the whole panel, and the appointment made on merit.

7. Is there an alternative to lodging formal complaints when things seem to have gone wrong? Sometimes the process can feel somewhat Kafka-esque!

The first step is to seek feedback and find out why you were unsuccessful – the response may well explain what happened and why, leading you to review the basis of your complaint. If you remain dissatisfied, then you can make a formal complaint through the appropriate process as set out in the original advert.  

8. With the new DELTA (Disability Scheme) programme being launched for this year's Future Leaders Scheme, do presenters feel that the way the Civil Service is run will need to fundamentally change to accommodate more disability in the SCS? Eg changing deadlines for papers, accommodating new ways of working for Board meetings etc?

As part of the CS Reform Agenda, Smarter Working in the Civil Service (formerly Build Back Better), is taking forward the positive lessons from the Pandemic on different ways of working. They are looking at hybrid ways of working, which will support accessibility and inclusion, health and wellbeing and work-life balance.   

9. How do you go about getting an assessment for what adjustments you might need? Or do you suggest them yourself?

If you think you may need workplace adjustments (you will, of course, probably be best placed to judge)  speak to your line manager and check on your department’s intranet site for Workplace Adjustment Guidance. The assessment routes will differ depending on which department you work in. The guidance should explain your department’s end to end workplace adjustment process and signpost you to the correct routes from assessments, through to the procurement of your adjustments. Some departments use the Civil Service Workplace Adjustment Service, others will have a central HR or Health & Safety team or line managers arrange assessments directly through their Occupational Health (OH) providers. 

It is worth noting that OH assessments aren’t always necessary, and can cause unnecessary expense and delay implementing adjustments. Depending on the type of disability or health condition, and how long you have lived with this, you may know exactly what adjustments you need to remove any barriers and support you effectively in the workplace. Completing a Workplace Adjustment Passport might help your line manager to understand your needs and support you better. 

If you have any other questions please email us at: info@csc.gov.uk.

Jolyon Thomson OBE

In our seventh blog in this series, Jolyon Thomson OBE, Deputy Director - International and Trade, talks about his experience of working in the Civil Service.

About Jolyon

Jolyon has been a Government lawyer for 25 years, primarily working on international and EU law in Defra’s areas of responsibility. He is currently Deputy Director (International and Trade) leading a team focusing on EU and global trade negotiations and before that, spent 18 years specialising in international environmental matters, for which he was awarded an OBE and share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He is registered blind and co-chairs the Government Legal Department’s Disability and Mental Health Network.  

What do you think the Civil Service needs to do to attract more candidates from a more diverse background into senior roles? What advice do you have for recruiters?

I shall respond on the basis of what I know best, namely the position relating to civil servants with disabilities.

Civil servants need to see and hear from those at senior levels that have made it. Importantly, the message needs to be that not only is it possible to reach the Senior Civil Service (SCS) but also that it’s a viable and sustainable role. Many potential SCS candidates are self-denying in terms of how they perceive their own ability to operate effectively at that level.

We should certainly now be in a position in 2021, 25 years after the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act, to ensure reasonable adjustments, intelligent work planning, and other suitable arrangements can be made (at the suggestion of the candidate who will always know better than a line manager what is feasible) so that those with disabilities can thrive at senior levels. But that can only be achieved when the most senior leaders can see the benefits and opportunities of allowing disabled staff to play to their strengths, and for those staff to have the confidence that the system will operate in that way.

Targets for Senior Civil Service with disabilities (for Government Legal Department, that is 10%) help provide momentum but are only the start of the necessary culture change needed for both line managers and staff.

What could the Civil Service do better to attract and retain civil servants from a more diverse background overall (at any level)? What do you see as the barriers?

I think it is a combination of visible role models and effective targeting. Whilst the Civil Service is making great strides in ensuring that interview panels are appropriately diverse, candidates from diverse backgrounds need to be enticed to apply.  There can be no substitute for a role model at a career fair (or to a lesser extent) in promotional material demonstrating how those from diverse backgrounds can make it to the Senior Civil Service (SCS).

Using the right opportunities for publicity is also important though. Many Government departments (including my own, the Government Legal Department) are members of the Business Disability Forum (BDF) alongside many significant private sector employers, thereby highlighting the fact that the Civil Service is very much open to disabled applicants.

What has been your personal experience of working in the Civil Service? What made a difference to you?

My first experience working for the Civil Service was in the early 1990s as a summer student following graduation in the Legal Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Significantly, the Legal Director and head of the department at the time was completely blind.  That showed me, at first hand, and in my very first experience of the Civil Service, that disability did not matter, and those with disabilities could reach the top positions. Indeed, I should say that that in itself did not surprise me: I have never seen my own visual impairment as any reason to prevent me from undertaking the career that interested me, namely one involving international and EU law. The fact that the head of the division was also blind seemed entirely appropriate and no big deal really.  It was only when I then moved into undertaking my legal training in the private sector that I realised how unusual that was.

Since becoming a permanent Government lawyer in 1996, my experience has been, in the main, hugely positive. I have received wholehearted support from the vast majority of my senior managers and have had no indication that joining the SCS would be a problem. Actually, in my interview for my first SCS role, the fact that I knocked over my water glass creating a wave of water that rushed towards the Panel’s notes, and the fact that we had to suspend the interview whilst they all hunted for paper towels, seemingly did not undermine their preparedness to offer me the role.

There have, though, been moments in my career where I have felt that managers have, seeking to do their best, nevertheless substituted their own judgments about the limits of my capabilities, which at the time was hugely demotivating and frustrating: following a major eye operation with an outcome resulting in significant sight loss, I was directed towards tabular work on screen rather than international negotiations, my area of expertise, which no doubt was arranged with the best of intentions by two Deputy Directors, but did not take account of my own views on what was possible.

Despite my favourable experiences, I have also come across instances where the question of disability has come up in the recruitment process. I was once asked at an interview why I thought I could do the role given my disability (and it was a simple legal advisory role), and I know of others who believe (whether rightly or wrongly) that they have been discriminated against when applying for promotion. I only hope, in this day and age, being on interview panels myself and letting my guide dog wander around the room hopefully de-stressing the candidate, that no one can be in any doubt that disability should not be a negative consideration in the recruitment process.

Why is diversity particularly important at senior levels?

The senior leadership of the Civil Service needs to represent the population it serves.  With 11 million disabled people in the UK, it is right that people at large, and those with disabilities in particular, have the confidence that policy development, decision-making and delivery are carried out by those with an understanding of their needs.

What experiences did you have working at a senior level in the private sector? Are there lessons that the Civil Service can learn from the private sector in terms of recruiting staff from a more diverse background?

My own experience in the private sector, albeit at a junior level, does not compare favourably with my Civil Service experience. This was also a factor alongside the interest in the unique work offered for my decision to forge a legal career in Government.

As a legal trainee and assistant in a major commercial law firm, I was often neglected and given no work to do at times when my colleagues were overworked and could have done with support. I took this as a misunderstanding on the part of my employers as to what I was capable of, given my disability, and my regular requests for work (and concerns about my treatment) were not heeded.

Of course, there were one or two enlightened individuals back in 1995 who did have confidence in me and provided the support that they could. But my treatment did make me feel like an outsider compared with my peers, and I was determined to make a career ultimately in Government, but first with a foray to Brussels to work for the European Commission and some EU law barristers, where my experience was entirely positive.

These days City law firms recruit on the basis of points systems, where points are added for those with extenuating circumstances, often for social mobility and other reasons designed to favour those who would otherwise be overlooked. Whilst in GLD we are particularly keen to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds, tailoring our summer placement and recruitment schemes accordingly, there is always something to learn from the way others do it. Diverse groups are more underrepresented at senior levels in the private sector in the main, and this will only improve over time as the pool of candidates at lower levels becomes more diverse.

Specific initiatives exist e.g. the 30% Club or Ginger to encourage underrepresented groups into senior roles, or to increase the self-confidence of applicants in terms of public speaking, and we need to ensure that our own internal Civil Service and Government Legal initiatives (for example Race to the Top and REACH for those with disabilities) can keep pace with what is known to work and put people into senior roles.

What drives and motivates you in your career?

Two things: firstly, the unique nature, challenge and interest of the work we do within Government; and, secondly, the wish to develop and bring on others to share in that sense of enthusiasm, passion and fulfilment. In applying the latter, it is my belief, based on my own experiences that I have relayed here, that everyone should have the chance to fulfil their potential - whatever their circumstances.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?

There hasn’t been much time for those lately thanks to Brexit demands and the constraints of lockdown. But I am very much looking forward to the time when I can go out for a proper walk with my yellow Labrador guide dog Melody, preferably in some fresh Scottish air. When not constrained, I enjoy going to concerts and theatre.  In the meantime, talking books are keeping me going.

Civil Service Commissioner Jane Burgess has recorded a very short zoom presentation on how ministers can and should be involved in recruitment to the Civil Service, in line with the Commission’s Recruitment Principles.

“I hope this helps to explain how ministers can be involved in a fair, open and merit-based process under the Recruitment Principles.”

“It’s really important to find out whether the minister wishes to take an interest in the appointment at the outset so that the minister can be involved properly and there is sufficient time allowed for that during the process.”

Watch Jane's short presentation below:

On 15th January the Commission held an online session with over 100 recruitment managers and team leaders across the Civil Service on working with the Recruitment Principles.

The Commission's Recruitment Principles document is the key source for departments and agencies making appointments. They set out the Commission's interpretation of the statutory requirement of appointment on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. 

The Principles also outline the circumstances in which appointments may be made as exceptions to the merit requirement.

The Principles are intentionally high level. It is for departments and agencies to develop and apply recruitment processes that best meet their business needs, while following the Principles.

The online session included a short presentation from Commissioners Jane Burgess and Rosie Glazebrook, followed by Q and A. 

Jane Burgess said: ‘I’d really like to thank all those who attended; it was great to have over 100 participants. We want to demystify the role of the Commission and help Civil Service recruiting managers and team leaders feel more confident about developing innovative campaigns that maintain the important principle of appointment on merit after a fair and open competition.“

Rosie Glazebrook said: “There were some great questions from participants. I hope everyone who attended found the session useful and informative. We’ll be running another session later this year but in the meantime our staff are always happy to help with any queries about working with the Principles.”

If you would like to know more about the Recruitment Principles or you are interested in attending a future event, please email us:  info@csc.gov.uk

Please watch the full recording of the event below:



Jason Ghaboos

In our sixth blog in this series, Jason Ghaboos, Deputy Director - Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion, talks about his experience of working in the Civil Service.

About Jason

Jason was appointed as Deputy Director, Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion in June 2020. In that role, Jason leads the Inclusive Practice team, working with departments to promote and assure best practice on inclusive working to enable the Civil Service to be an exemplar employer.

What do you think the Civil Service needs to do to attract more candidates from a more diverse background into senior roles? What advice do you have for recruiters?

We need to have more confidence in the positives we have to offer as an employer. The nature, breadth and variety of work on offer continues to amaze me even after 18 years working as a civil servant. The opportunity to shape large, complex change, often impacting the shape of society and the quality of life experience for our citizens is such an amazing offer. These opportunities are our unique selling point, and we should push that more.

We need to engage with people in a variety of ways to ensure our value as an employer is seen and understood by all, regardless of background or experience. We know there are perceptions of the Civil Service that are not necessarily accurate, but nonetheless persevere in pockets of communities.   

We should be creative in our attraction of talent, particularly into the SCS, drawing on best practice, available technologies and outreach to engage effectively with those with a range of valuable experiences to reach the broadest audience and a more diverse field of candidates.

What could the Civil Service do better to attract and retain civil servants from a more diverse background overall (at any level)? What do you see as the barriers?

We must make the most of what we have invested in attracting and recruiting talent by improving our retention strategy. Not least, for example, by looking at how we onboard individuals at all levels from the outset of their careers. To promote the uniqueness of working in the Civil Service, our Code, impartiality and ways of working; but also ensuring the diversity they bring (of thought, perspective, innovation) is understood and embraced.

What has been your personal experience of working in the Civil Service? What made a difference to you?

I have been in the Civil Service for over 18 years, starting as an administrative assistant and have worked at every grade between that and my current position in the SCS. 

I am immensely proud to be a civil servant. I have worked in immigration, working with business to ensure the necessary talent is attracted and retained in the UK. I’ve also worked in operations, policy development, assurance, project management and process design. 

I feel lucky to have had so many different experiences: one day walking atop one of the world's few particle accelerators, examining anti-gravitational chambers where satellites are tested before being put into orbit, supporting embassy work, working with big business to improve UK PLC or undertaking regulatory action to prevent abuse of the immigration system to now working aside some of the most dedicated individuals tirelessly engaged in departments to deliver improved workplace culture.  

A key difference for me personally has been the support of my line management team. Good, effective, consistent leadership is key for all our people to inspire, motivate and support. The value of strong leadership and management support cannot be undervalued and should not be left to chance.

Why is diversity particularly important at senior levels?

Crucially, Civil Service diversity will lead to better outcomes for our citizens. It provides us with the ability to meet the pressures and demands facing us as a modern Civil Service, improving our ability, as individuals and collectively as an employer, to solve problems more effectively.

This is about attracting talent from a broad background to promote creativity and innovation. Inclusive working then enables us as civil servants to lead more effectively through a range of increasingly challenging and complex issues and decision making on a daily basis.  

What experiences did you have working at a senior level in the private sector? Are there lessons that the Civil Service can learn from the private sector in terms of recruiting staff from a more diverse background?

Whilst on secondment to the University of Cambridge focussing on workplace culture and in my Civil Service roles, I have had first-hand insight of the focus and energy applied to recruitment and retention of staff in the private sector. 

I learned much from engagement with organisations like Google about the emphasis placed on onboarding to ensure the potential of new recruits is maximised. It’s an approach that looks at both the individual and the organisation and could be very powerful in supporting our ambitions on improving inclusion. 

What drives and motivates you in your career?

Seeing the impact of decisions made on the public and our people is so rewarding. For me, working with other civil servants that are motivated in a similar way and learning from passionate, dedicated people with a wealth of varying experience and backgrounds is the most motivating driver in my career.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?

Films, various sports, reading and spending time with my cocker spaniel on walks in the countryside.

The Corporate Services team held an online training session on 19th January for all staff on the use of social media. Like all civil servants, Commission staff are expected to adhere to a code which mirrors the Civil Service Code – both online and offline (for further information on Commission guidance visit the links below).

Maggie O’Boyle press officer for the Civil Service Commission opened the session with some guidance around using social media in a professional capacity, highlighting that social media is like any public forum and the same considerations apply as would to writing something or speaking, even in a personal capacity outside of work.

In the training session; Ben Fritter, Nicola Carpenter and Richard Webb took the team through the Civil Service Guidance, while also highlighting key messages and concerns around cyber security and the use of social media.

Pete Lawrence, Chief Executive of the Commission, said:


"It is important every member of staff understands what is expected of them and to recognise that even where your account says things like ‘tweeting in a personal capacity’, it does not absolve you of the requirement to follow the Code. The Code values of honesty, impartiality, integrity and objectivity apply online and offline."

For further information about the session, please visit the links below. 

Download the Commission Slides: 

Click Here to be redirected to Social Media presentation.

Link to guidance: 

https://civilservicecommission.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/01b_Code-of-Practice-for-Staff.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-code/the-civil-service-code

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-media-guidance-for-civil-servants/social-media-guidance-for-civil-servants 

Seonaid Webb MBE

In our fifth blog in this series, Seonaid Webb MBE - Deputy Director, Head of Secondary Legislation, Constitution and Borders Directorate, DEFRA and Deputy Disability Champion - talks about her experience of working in the Civil Service.

About Seonaid

Seonaid has been a civil servant for 17 years and is currently a Deputy Director in DEFRA where she is Head of Secondary Legislation. Prior to that, she worked in the Home Office for 15 years in a variety of policy and operational roles, the last of which was as head of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review team. She is creator and chair of the award-winning Civil Service Working Through Cancer Network.

What do you think the civil service needs to do to attract more candidates from a more diverse background into senior roles? What advice do you have for recruiters?

People need to be curious about diversity. By that, I mean learning from people with protected and non-protected characteristics about what would attract them to a role, and what they look for in leadership role modelling. 

For example,  we can improve the language and narratives in job adverts to be more inclusive. Plain English and a wider expectation of non-role related experience and behaviours, rather than just specific Civil Service terminologies and career experience, is a good start.  

What could the civil service do better to attract and retain civil servants from a more diverse background overall (at any level)? What do you see as the barriers?

I always attend my local secondary school’s careers fairs and professions events. It’s clear that many young people haven’t heard of the Civil Service, and in particular, don’t realise what excellent and diverse opportunities we offer in terms of entry (apprenticeships and Fast Stream for example) and in terms of professions (from communications and project management to digital and policy – there is something for everyone). I always take one of my apprentices or Fast Streamers with me to the events and we tag team on marketing the Civil Service as a great place to work. The response is always so inspiring – students who realise that there is an amazing career on offer with or without a degree level education. Quite often parents also take our leaflets for themselves! So, if I could suggest one mandated objective for senior managers it is to attend their local (or closest town/city if they don’t have one nearby) secondary school’s careers events and to encourage people from as many backgrounds and life experiences as possible to join us! 

What has been your personal experience of working in the civil service? What made a difference to you?

I have been a Civil Servant now for nearly 17 years. I have absolutely loved the variety of roles I’ve been in from policy to operations, strategy and continuous improvement. Having the flexibility to move departments and test my leadership skills in a new environment is so valuable. For me, knowing that I’m working on issues that really matter – and supporting the UK’s objectives – has always been my main driver. And then working in organisations that are inclusive, diverse and where talent is nurtured is something I feel personally driven to support and improve. 

Why is diversity particularly important at senior levels?

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of decision making that is ignorant of wider risks, issues and opportunities if we don’t have diversity at senior levels. Quite often the person who is challenging the status quo, and asking the “but why?” questions is the one who spots the best ways to improve the way we work and the service we offer our customers. 

For example, do our impact assessments always ask the right questions, and cover the breadth of communities affected by new policies? The Civil Service must be representative of the rich diversity of the public we serve – right now, it’s getting better but there is still a long way to go. 

What drives and motivates you in your career?

I have already mentioned that I love working on issues that matter to the UK. As a leader, I am also passionate about developing talent and creating a great place to work. I’ve mentored and sponsored people for more than 12 years now, and every person’s happiness at their achievements and successes is important to me. 

I want to make sure we build the confidence and capability of the next generation of senior managers, to remove barriers and increase opportunities. 

And finally, I care deeply about inclusion for all. As the chair of the Civil Service Working Through Cancer network, and DEFRA's Deputy Disability Champion, I am motivated to role model behaviours that increase awareness, remove barriers and improve the lived experience of disabled colleagues across the Civil Service.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?

I love reading (I’m part of a decade long book club), and I love travelling with my family – usually to European destinations, but in 2020 I’ve really enjoyed visiting as much of the UK as possible and enjoying the rich diversity of our natural landscape; from coastlines to mountains to forests. We’re so lucky and must leave a legacy where the beauty and importance of our natural environment are maintained (and improved) for future generations.

The REACH - Senior Disability Network has recently published a series of interviews as part of their 'Empowering Disabled Staff into Senior Grades' workshop series. Please see below links to all six interviews:

Ben Merrick

Seonaid Webb

Stuart Armstrong

Shaun Gallagher

Jeanette Rosenberg

Stephen Braviner Roman

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