At a time when I really felt the need for something to motivate and develop me, through my collaboration with Civil Service Local, I became aware of an opportunity to apply to work on secondment at Kirkham Prison for 4 months. I jumped at the chance to learn new skills in a new department and meet new people. Since joining the Civil Service, I’ve always worked in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), so didn’t know a great deal about other departments, apart from a little I’d already learned through Civil Service Local.
My role at Kirkham was ‘Head of Corporate Services & Finance’ which, to be honest, meant nothing until I met with the Prison Governor to get a brief understanding of the role. After talking to him, I decided to go for it. I knew it would be a big challenge for me, as I knew nothing about the Prison Service. But, I also knew that this would be a fantastic development opportunity for me and give me some great examples for my CV.
So, on my first day I drove to Kirkham very nervously, like it was my first day at school, hoping I wouldn’t get lost and be late! Thankfully, I arrived on time and was welcomed by the Governor and taken to the daily ‘operational’ meeting where various managers from the prison meet to discuss general prison business. I sat there thinking what on earth does it all mean? I know the abbreviations and acronyms we use in HMRC, but this was a whole new world. I introduced myself and tried to jot down everyone’s names and roles but failed miserably. I then had a quick induction of the prison and was shown to my new office which was a first for me, sitting in a room on my own. How would I cope? I’m used to sitting in an open plan office with lots of other people to talk to.
Every day was eventful and unpredictable. My role was very diverse but included a number of tasks and duties. These ranged from looking after budgets and ensuring maintenance repairs were done on time to ordering provisions and making sure invoices were paid on time. I also had responsibility for making sure there were enough staff and ensuring theirs and the prisoners’ safety.
Another part of my role was reporting back to senior management on performance. I had to adjust to different ways of working in an operational environment very quickly. I also had to learn how to deal with priorities and issues that emerged almost daily. I realised that the Prison Service is very reactive, whereas I had always worked in HMRC which seems to me to be more proactive.
All in all, I had a great time and managed to learn something new every day – I couldn’t believe how different another department was. I have always been a little naïve and thought that all Civil Service departments were very similar. How wrong was? I’ve built up a good network of people and I’m still in touch with them all in my current role.
I can honestly say that this is best thing I have ever done in work. It was a challenge to understand all the terminology and processes in the National Offender Management Service, but I came back a different person. This secondment has given me more confidence and helped me to apply for the Civil Service Local Assistant Co-ordinator job. I would recommend anyone to try and experience another department - whether that be through a secondment or one of our initiatives like Exchange to Change. It really does open your eyes and make you see things differently.