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Scottish Nexus - Social Mobility Scotland

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Blue flag with white cross and words Nexus Social Mobility Scotland

Scottish Nexus are keen to increase awareness of the importance of social mobility and would love to have representatives from every department in Scotland. Their aim is to share best practice and complete some outreach work in local communities, they meet quarterly and would like you to join them. All you need is your line manager's approval and an interest in promoting the Civil Service as a great place to work.

Lisa Flannery of Scottish Nexus tells her story

Growing up, my mum always taught me that education and intelligence are two very different things; having one doesn't always guarantee the other. Growing up in Bootle, Merseyside, some of the most intelligent people I knew left school before 16 without any formal qualifications.

Aged 11, life changed for me when I was awarded a scholarship by The Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity with the aim of providing students from lower socio-economic backgrounds access to higher education. Later, at university, I often felt lost without having someone there to show me the ropes. I was the first in my family to attend university and I was unsure of how and when to apply for graduate jobs, and unpaid internships were never an option.

Starting in the Civil Service aged 26, I did worry it would be a similar experience. Fortunately, as an administrative officer in Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), I found that this wasn’t the case. The transferable skills I'd gained working in hospitality and a bookmakers were valued and I was given the time to develop myself, with fantastic team leaders who encouraged me along the way.

Then, in 2017, I attended the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) Social Mobility Conference with Thomas Lough (CICA). It highlighted MoJ’s Catapult scheme, which aims to match current employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds with the types of mentors I felt I would have benefitted from at university.

People looking at a presentation

This inspired us to found Scottish Nexus, a cross-government social mobility network with Richie Ireland (Ministry of Defence) and Jean Comrie (Department for Work and Pensions). We are aiming to increase awareness of the importance of social mobility.

From my own experience, it’s important to ensure social mobility is a long-term focus. It’s not just about getting a diverse range of people in the door, it’s about showing them they belong here and are valued. We need to show that the Civil Service is actively seeking out a diverse and talented workforce that reflects the society it serves.

So, it turns out my mum was right; education and intelligence are two very different things. The level of education a person has achieved is so often down to the opportunities that have been afforded to them. We need to recognise that people aren’t always given the same opportunities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have equal amounts to contribute. So many positive steps are being taken, but we can’t get complacent. More can be done to improve social mobility, and as a network we’re aiming to keep it on the agenda.

Selfie of six people

If you want to get involved and connect with Scottish Nexus the brilliant Cross-Government Social Mobility Network supported by CS Local Scotland please contact Lisa or Thomas using the following email addresses

or message/follow them on Twitter @scgsmn

You can also leave a comment below.









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  1. Comment by Louisa Radice posted on

    Here's my confession: I went to a private school and have a postgraduate degree from a Russell Group university, but I have never risen above an entry-level position and now earn less than what my mother did over 20 years ago. Am I doing my bit for downward social mobility? At least no-one can accuse me of dominating any professions.

    • Replies to Louisa Radice>

      Comment by Richie Ireland posted on

      That’s really interesting Louisa, thank you for sharing. Social Mobility is for everyone from all walks of life but I guess we always think of, and focus upon, those who are most impeded from progression because they haven’t been afforded opportunities to discover workplaces, education or mentors, or maybe have had to focus on caring priorities (for example)

      What have been the biggest barriers to your own progression? And what would you like to see in a social mobility strategy that could help people from all walks of life succeed in their choices?


      • Replies to Richie Ireland>

        Comment by Louisa Radice posted on

        I have Asperger syndrome and haven't always been able to access adequate workplace support. What I would like to see in a social mobility strategy would be more transparency about how to go about career progression rather than assuming that everyone will just know and/or be befriended by someone who will show them the ropes. Please don't assume that autistic employees are so adverse to change that they have no career ambitions.

  2. Comment by Richard Ireland posted on

    Louisa, I'm sorry to hear that you haven't been able to access adequate workplace support. I'm not sure exactly how DFE is set-up, but in my department (MOD) we have a " Reasonable Adjustments and Support Team" (Or RAST) who are set up to support both employees and managers for all kinds of workplace support.

    I agree with you that not everyone (in fact, not many!) people have access to someone who can show them the ropes, either from a networking, mentoring or coaching perspective. The CS Local team are well set up in that respect whereby they offer mentoring and networking and engagement events; I will pass on your feedback to their engagement network though, to see if they can consider a special event which covers neurodiversity and the benefits that conditions such as Autism and Asperger's bring to an organisation. I know that, again, in MOD we have a neurodiversity network based out of London.

    And don't worry, I'd never assume that any person with any condition would be without career ambitions 🙂

    Thanks for engaging,