5th January 2023

Guest Blog: Experience of the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship

Louise is a care experienced musician, actor, writer and creator. In this post she shares her experience of the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship Scheme. This is an adapted version of a post she wrote for IMO, the Children’s Commissioner’s digital offering for teenagers in care and care leavers.

From 2003 to 2013, I was looked after by the local authority with my two younger siblings. Throughout my time in care, and even since aging out of the system nearly three years ago, I have been told I wouldn’t amount to an awful lot: I wouldn’t get five GCSEs, I wouldn’t get any A-Levels and I certainly wouldn’t get an undergraduate degree. But you see, the thing is, I’m stubborn. And if you tell me I’m not going to amount to anything – I’m going to work my hardest to show you wrong!

It’s one of the reasons I applied for the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship Scheme.

To give you a short overview, the UK government pledged to change the statistic of 41% of care leavers aged 19-21 being NEET (not in education, employment or training). The internship is a scheme to give care leavers the chance to work in a government department/agency for twelve months with the possibility of being made a permanent member of staff at the end of it. The Government’s mission is to create over 3,000 jobs each year for care leavers by 2026. At the time of writing, and the statistics on government websites, over 700 care leavers have been offered roles thus far.

Now, back to my story. In May 2021, I moved from England back to Wales for a job in the private sector that didn’t work out the way I had hoped. When I saw the advert for the next cohort of Civil Service Internships go live, despite being unsuccessful the year before, I tried again. I didn’t know about the Civil Service or even what departments were available, however, in my heart – I knew it would be a steppingstone in the right direction for my career.

October 2021. Interview month. On the day of my interview, technology was not my friend with my laptop throwing a tantrum and my phone simply deciding it was going to be a bother too. You’d have thought with me being a millennial twenty-something I could make it work! I was flustered and I waffled a lot but somehow, I was successful. On the grading criteria, I got 14 out of 15.

In November 2021, a staff member from the Department for Education rang me to say there weren’t any jobs available in the city I was learning to call home, however, there was a department a ten-minute train journey away. Did I want to know more? Obviously, I said yes. The Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was going to be my workplace for the next twelve months. I got to researching the organisation whilst also stressing that because maths is not my strong suit – I wouldn’t be any good at the job!

Having said that, I am very fortunate my role within ONS is not to look at the data. I get to use my writing skills by emailing stakeholders or to come up with ways to improve our systems… it’s all very interesting.

After being on long term sick for almost half of my fixed-term contract – I walked back into the ‘building’ in October 2022, and it was almost as if I had never left. My manager broke down my role and my tasks in a way to not overload me. As I got more used to working 8-4, five days a week, my workload increased. But, never to a level I can’t handle. I’ve been handed more responsibility and I’ve suggested ways to improve my team’s workload.

There are only a handful of interns working at the ONS this year, but they are keen for more care experienced interns to set foot in the organisation! For the current interns, and myself, it occurred to me one day that whilst we are still hybrid working, and not seeing each other face-to-face, it would be a good idea to set up a Microsoft Teams channel specifically for intern related things. I ran this idea past the intern coordinator who believed it was a great idea. Since setting up the Teams channel I have presented the interns with numerous things that could help them now, but also in the future. Wellbeing links, positive affirmations, a place to ask questions and a job board. One of my corporate responsibilities is to manage this channel with interesting and engaging things that the other interns may not know what to look for.

I’m nearing the end of my internship technically, however, my team want to extend my contract to cover the time I was off poorly. This means if ONS say yes – I’ll be an experienced intern who can offer that peer-to-peer support. Having said that, the role I am currently doing has been advertised as a permanent position. So, having already got one foot in the door – I applied. As I’m writing (Dec 2022), I’ve been offered an interview for the role!

Would I recommend applying? Yes!

The civil service has so much support available for their staff and across government, it is a big part of their core to support the wellbeing of staff.

I have grown in ways I didn’t know were possible. My interpersonal skills and confidence have blossomed, my writing skills have developed as I communicate with stakeholders, and I am able to ask questions that I would normally be too afraid to ask. There is so much learning and training available to civil servants as well – job specific but also things that will benefit employees outside of the workplace.

This is the first job where I see progression. It is the first job where I can see room for growth professionally and personally. It is the first job where no idea is a silly idea.

In 2003, I didn’t know where my life was going to lead having been torn away from my biological caregivers. In 2016, I didn’t know how or what I was going to use my degree for. In 2018/19, when my world was slowly falling apart: I didn’t know what to do. To now, in 2022, I’m a proud care leaver. I’m a proud advocate for the care community. I’m a civil servant. I’m good at my job (so I’ve been told). And I am a success story.

The Civil Service Care Leaver Internship Scheme is open to care leavers entitled to a leaving care package, aged 18-30 who meet the Civil Service nationality requirements. There are no set qualification requirements, however, applications are assessed based on the criteria in the advert. The advert for the next cohort of internships closes this week: January 8, 2023.