A Department for Education minister has said the civil service must open up to care leavers as she launched this year’s care internship programme.
Vicky Ford, the minister for children, told CSW it it vital that the government “leads from the front” by creating opportunities for care leavers. “I feel that we must demonstrate that leadership, but I also think it sends out a really important message to all young people in care, including those who don't apply to this scheme, that we're there, we care, we're creating opportunities ourselves, as well as calling upon others to do the same.”
The internship programme has been created to provide an entrance point for young people leaving care who would like to pursue a career in the civil service. The 12-month internships are offered at two grades – administrative officer and executive officer.
Ford told CSW the number of placements has doubled to 550 and covers “a huge range of different departments and agencies” – 20 in total, in around 70 locations in the UK.
One former intern, Danielle June, shared her experiences with CSW as she progressed through to a permanent job in the DfE’s planning, analysis and operations unit. Ford said this was just one example of where roles were available.
“There’s also opportunities in the [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office], in the Departments of Health and Trade, in the National Crime Agency, in the [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] if you're into cars and traffic, in Ofsted and Ofqual, in the Scottish Government," she said.
The Department for Work and Pensions also has a "large number of opportunities" on offer. The department "would like to see more care experienced young people on the frontlines supporting those who are looking for work in job centres across the country”, Ford said.
In the past, interns have helped to support fostering policy at the Department for Education, to which Ford said care leavers can bring unique insight, specifically to help other children in care and care leavers.
In other cases, they want to have opportunities to work on different areas, Ford said. Other examples include an intern who worked on judicial engagement for the Ministry of Defence, a post which became permanent. Another interned as a business support officer to two deputy directors at the Department of Health and Social Care, before moving to another post involved in planning around major incidents.
Another intern started out working on international development before taking up a permanent job in the Cabinet Office, and is now working "right on the front line of No.10" supporting the prime minister's special advisers, Ford said.
"They are often the most incredibly resilient young people, and it's great to give them these chances.”
Ford said she had been working with the participating departments to put supportive working arrangements in place for the upcoming cohort, who are set to join the civil service at a time when officials are mostly working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ford said the interns' roles will determine whether they will work from home in the programme, but added: “We've been working very closely with those who support the scheme to make sure that those who have mentored interns in previous years can pass on that advice to those who will be mentoring the new intake to really make sure that there's the maximum support there.”
Applications for the scheme are open until 12 October.