Cabinet Office to scrap Fast Stream line-management roles

Fast streamer support will come almost solely from departments under the plans
Photo: Cliff Hide General News/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

18 Mar 2024

The Cabinet Office will scrap Fast Stream line-management roles at the centre of government after a review of the graduate scheme “identified duplicated activities”.

The news comes after CSW exclusively reported that applications to the Fast Stream have plummeted in the last few years.

Currently, fast streamers have two managers: an activity manager based in the department they are working in; and a skills and capability manager based in the Cabinet Office’s Fast Stream and Emerging Talent (FSET) team.

But from September, the skills and capability manager roles will be cut and fast streamers’ departmental line managers will deliver the majority of line-management and performance-management duties, according to a Fast Stream intranet post seen by CSW

The intranet update states: “Like many departments and business units, Fast Stream has been reviewing its delivery model to ensure that we can provide the best possible service for fast streamers, departments and stakeholders whilst operating as efficiently as possible.

“We have identified a number of duplicated activities in the FSET formal line management and departmental line management of fast streamers by activity managers”.

The post says the Fast Stream has notified the FDA, which represents civil servants on the grad scheme, about the plans.

Lauren Crowley, assistant general secretary at the FDA, said the proposals are a "major structural change" and "will leave many fast streamers concerned about how they will be supported throughout the scheme".

Crowley said she also fears the announcement will “damage the reputation of the Fast Stream to potential applicants and raise questions over whether the government is truly committed to a high-quality development scheme”.

"In the week it was reported there had been a sharp fall in applications to the Fast Stream; we now learn that the Cabinet Office is cutting line-management support for fast streamers, as a result of headcount reduction,” she said.

“From the ill-advised suspension of the scheme in 2022, which caused an inevitable fall in applications, to the Cabinet Office now slimming down its central support for fast streamers, the government needs to think long and hard about the message this sends.”

Skills and capability managers’ sole role is to manage fast streamers, working with them to ensure they are getting the wider learning and development opportunities they need. CSW understands the Cabinet Office plans to redeploy them to other jobs in the department rather than making any redundancies.

The proposed reforms to the graduate scheme follow recent changes which saw activity managers take over responsibility for fast streamer performance management from skills and capability managers.

The intranet message states that the latest changes to the Fast Stream delivery model “are designed to empower activity managers to be even more supportive” of fast streamers’ development. It says the reforms will “ensure that roles and responsibilities are clearer and there is no duplication of activities between FSET and departments”.

Under the plans, fast streamers will still be able to seek support from FSET if there are “complex issues that cannot be resolved by departmental activity managers”, the intranet post says.

The message to fast streamers says the proposals “will enable FSET to focus on improving the quality of engagement with departments and developing the understanding and capability of activity managers in relation to the Fast Stream, who we know are key in determining the quality of your fast streamer experience”.

“This will be complemented by FSET becoming more expert in the interventions we deliver to fast streamers, for example, increasing the quality of group development interventions,” the post adds.

FSET is “also enhancing the learning and development curriculum offer… to ensure fast streamers have the required capability to operate effectively, based on careful design and evaluation, including leadership and management training and foundation skills, such as digital, data and analytical skill areas”, according to the intranet update.

The bulletin also said fast streamers will continue to be employed by the Cabinet Office and their employment terms and conditions will not change.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The Fast Stream is a world-leading graduate programme that offers significant opportunities to develop personal and professional skills.

“Fast streamers will still be supported by a dedicated line manager. The proposed changes involve a shift in the balance of responsibility to create clearer and more effective line management structures in fast streamers’ host departments, as well as continuing support from the Cabinet Office. 

“We are also enhancing our learning and development curriculum offer to ensure fast streamers have the capability to operate effectively, including with leadership and management training and foundation skills in digital, data and analytical areas.”

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