What does your job involve?
We lead a directorate of around 100 brilliant and highly motivated people who have policy responsibility for civil society – charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises – as well as out-of-school youth services. The voluntary and community sector is huge and diverse, and works with policymakers across government – for instance, a large health charity will be plugged into the Department of Health and Social Care. We don’t try to cut across those relationships; instead, we steward the sector as a whole and work closely with umbrella sector bodies on pan-sector issues, such as the impact on charities of cost of living issues, on which we recently achieved a Budget announcement of £100m in emergency funding for charities dealing with increased demand from vulnerable people. We also have specific policy responsibility for volunteering, tackling loneliness and youth services such as youth clubs and uniformed youth groups like Scouts. It’s the best job in the world!
To do your job well you need...
Passion for helping those people in our society who most need it, as that’s who charities work with.
First job in government?
Hannah came into the Department for Work and Pensions as a fast streamer around 20 years ago and spent much of her career working on pension policy. Becky worked in other parts of the public sector, in strategic communications, and entered government as a G6 in pensions comms. We formed our job share in 2013 as programme director for pensions automatic enrolment, then moved to the Treasury and then to DCMS.
Proudest achievement to date?
Ten million people saving into a pension for the first time as a result of automatic enrolment was a great thing to have been part of, as was achieving £100m for charities in the recent Budget. But really, our proudest achievement is always when people say they’ve enjoyed working with us. We’re all about leading teams of people who are passionate about what they do and kind in the way they do it.
Most bizarre thing that’s happened to you at work?
I (Becky) once found myself dancing with Nadine Dorries to a soul band in the office, while watching Hannah kill herself, laughing out of the corner of my eye. I needed the trip to the pub that followed.
If you weren’t a civil servant you’d be...
Professional knitter/crocheter (Hannah) and novelist (Becky). Both pretty unrealistic, to be fair. We’ll stick to the day job.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?
Be yourself. So easy to forget when you’re peppered with other advice about what to do and how to be, and especially when you’re in a challenging or unfamiliar environment. But that’s when it becomes even more important.
If you could wave a magic wand over the civil service, what would you change?
Sometimes it feels like the process can eat the people a bit (which probably happens in any big organisation). We need to guard more against that, and not be afraid to question the machine, even if it feels like hard work. The other thing we’d change is the outside world’s perception of the civil service, which is so often outdated and downright wrong; and unlike most professions, we aren’t able to go out there and defend ourselves publicly.