Where could you find uniformed Border Force officers chatting animatedly to Land Registry digital developers? Or Visa and Immigration advisers exchanging work- smart strategies with Child Maintenance processors? These and many other lively discussions could be heard at the first Discover Liverpool event.
The event, organised by Claire Hughes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is part of Civil Service Local’s drive to connect a more flexible and dynamic workforce that is curious about other government departments. The aim was to generate interest in new, innovative ways to help our communities, such as volunteering n hospices, prisons and schools.
Claire is a good example of how these discovery sessions work. She said:
I’ve been working for HMRC for seven years, and three years ago I attended a similar session to the one today. It opened my eyes to the varied work that CS Local North West do. Organising an event such as this has certainly boosted my confidence as I find myself talking to quite senior people. These are skills that I can take back to the office.
Claire thought up a speed dating-type scenario, where representatives from different departments, including the Legal Aid Agency, Border Force and the Land Registry, among others, sat at different tables. Each group of representatives gave 10 minute presentations to civil servants from other departments, who then moved to the next table to repeat the process.
The main aims of the sessions, according to Claire, were to connect different departments and encourage them to work together, for professional development and also to work with vulnerable citizens. For example, civil servants in the past have gone into prisons and taught prisoners how to fill in tax returns, making them more equipped for the world of work.
Cheryl Clynch works for the Department for Work and Pensions in the Child Maintenance Group. As part of her training, she has been involved in going into primary schools and giving pupils an insight into her working day. Cheryl has been to previous discovery session, and she was visibly enthused by this one.
These sessions provide a great opportunity for us to discover things about other departments. There’s a buzz about the room. I’ve benefited greatly from going into schools and effecting change in the community. I’ve worked in this department since 1994, so it’s good to see new life being brought into the Civil Service with these great discovery sessions
One of the teams giving a talk was from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). Rather than being stuck at a desk, civil servants in the agency have been given a laptop and a mobile phone, which encourages flexibility. Hannah Smallshaw, supervisor for the LAA’s Criminal Applications Team, explained that her department had to get through 10,000 applications a week and that 90% of them must be processed within two days.
There are plenty of opportunities to improve government workers’ development, including specialised exchanges of up to five days spent with experts from other departments. This discovery session was only one way in which civil servants from numerous departments could benefit and learn more.