When Permanent Secretary of the Department for Work and Pensions, Peter Schofield, took over as Chair of the Charity for Civil Servants in 2019, he praised the Charity for “playing an increasingly important part in the wellbeing of so many people”. Four years on, this is still true and the Charity’s role is even more relevant.
“Thank you to all of our current donors,” says Schofield. “And I really want to encourage those civil servants who are in a position to do so to consider becoming a donor and making a difference for colleagues who need our support.”
The Charity’s performance in 2022 shows that the demand for financial assistance, money advice, counselling and other wellbeing services, which the Charity provides exclusively to current, former and retired civil servants, has grown significantly. Since 2020, the Charity has been struggling to cope with the demand, first as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and later due to early signs of what is now the ongoing cost-of-living challenges in the UK.
“We know how difficult the last few years have been for people, particularly those most in need of support,” says Schofield, adding: “It’s in these times that the importance of the Charity for Civil Servants really comes to the fore, and I’ve been proud and humbled to see how the Charity has responded.”
Vital to the Charity’s work are the donations from and fundraising by civil servants. For Schofield, critical to keeping the community engaged are the excellent relationships across every Department. “I think it’s so important that the Charity hears the voices of civil servants in every corner of the UK,” he says, noting that dedicated charity staff based in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland speak and listen to civil servants every day of the week.
“The pandemic had such a huge impact on our presence on the ground, as it did for everyone, of course,” he adds, putting the spotlight on the staff of the Charity who pivoted overnight to a digital-first approach to delivering new help initiatives like the Burnout Hub and the Smarter Working for your Wellbeing initiative. “That really brought home to me that, despite being over 136 years old, the Charity is still as relevant today as the day it was formed.”
“Through us, civil servants can help each other overcome life’s challenges and help them to thrive,” says Hooper
The Charity for Civil Servants is also growing a base of volunteers and champions who are dedicated to spreading information about its mission, raising awareness and signposting for those in need of key services.
“They’re an incredible bunch of people who show belief in what we’re here for and take time out of their day to support the Charity’s work, and their fellow colleagues,” says Schofield. “We couldn’t do what we do without them, but frankly, we need more support over the coming months and years so we can meet the growing demand.”
For whatever happens
Graham Hooper, a former civil servant with 23 years in the public sector, has been Chief Executive at the Charity since 2015. Sharing his vision for the future, he says: “It’s about getting to a point where there is a supportive community, and everyone has the opportunity to live their lives to the full. Through us, civil servants can help each other overcome life’s challenges and help them to thrive.”
He is also clear the current economic climate presents challenges for the Charity’s own operation, too. “People are under pressure with the rising cost of living, and that’s leading to people wanting to get support and help for a variety of different issues,” he says, noting the Charity has adapted to meet this demand, but this means that raising funds is more important than ever before.
“For civil servants who have previously found it difficult not being able to help, they’ve told us they really value donating to their charity and knowing that their support is helping others who need it,” says Schofield
Hooper explains: “We’ve adapted our approach to continue to deliver as much help as possible, making sure we do so efficiently and effectively. Delivering support through digital resources is part of this new approach, as this is how many people want to access some of our services. This complements the other kinds of help we offer. If someone has an issue or specific problem and they need to talk to somebody about that, we still aim to provide bespoke one-to-one support, and that’s where we want to make sure we have sufficient resources to be able to continue to offer that kind of service.”
The Charity has also seen a rise in the number of people wanting to help colleagues, and they have found the Charity to be the ideal way to do it through donating and fundraising across the country.
“For civil servants who have previously found it difficult not being able to help, they’ve told us they really value donating to their charity and knowing that their support is helping others who need it,” said Schofield.
By 2025 the Charity wants to give more financial support to those most in need, increase the number of people coming to the charity for help and grow funds raised through donations.
“The past year has proven to be another very tough one for everyone, including those in the civil service community,” says Schofield, noting that things are more and more expensive for those most in need of help and support. At the same time, money is tighter for donors and potential donors. “We’re clear in our purpose as a charity that we want more people to come to us for help in tougher times – which means we need to try to bring in more donations, so we have the resources needed to deliver it.”
In light of the prevailing economic climate, the Charity has worked to reassess its strategy, along with emerging plans and phasing of fundraising work. “By the end of 2025, we now believe we will see civil servants coming to the charity for help over 100,000 times, including giving around £2.5m in direct financial support to those most in need,” says Schofield, noting that to achieve that, "we will need to continue transforming how we do business, effectively engage with more of our community and grow our donor numbers".
As part of that important step forward, the Charity is set to launch a modernised brand in April and will build on this by launching its ‘Mega Miles Challenge’, the Charity’s very own active participation campaign, which will be delivered across the UK in June 2023. The event will encourage thousands of civil servants across the Civil Service community to ‘Lend a Hand and Sign Up’ and raise as much money as possible for their charity.
Schofield says all these interventions are designed to signal the Charity’s commitment to making it fit and relevant for another generation. But, he adds: “We can only do that by growing the kind support from donors, for which we are always very grateful. Our ambition is to place the Charity on a sustainable financial footing and to ensure that every civil servant is aware of the umbrella of support available to them in their times of need, now and in the future.”
Sign up to keep in touch with the Charity, or make a donation by visiting cfcs.org.uk/hello.