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My Charity Next secondment

Natasha Bance

Abbie Cochrane, a Government Statistical Service (GSS) Fast Streamer, recently spent time on a secondment working for Scope between autumn 2020 and spring 2021.

Charity Next interviewed her about her placement.

Please give a brief overview of your host organisation, and the main responsibilities of your placement there.

My host organisation was Scope, a disability equality charity. Scope offers a range of support services to disabled people and their families, including support for getting into employment, and support for parents when their children get diagnosed with a disability.

My role was focused on evaluation of these services: assessing where the service was working well and where it could be improved. I focused mainly on the statistical aspect of these evaluations by analysing surveys carried out by customers before, during or after their time on the service. I also helped support the qualitative evaluation of services by carrying out focus groups and interviews with customers.

What were you able to achieve for your host organisation during your secondment?

My main achievement was carrying out the statistical analysis for the evaluation of one of Scope’s key services. The analysis teams in Scope are quite small and Covid meant a lot of people were placed on furlough or reduced working hours. This meant that they did not have the resource to carry out these evaluations before my arrival.

What skills did you personally gain or develop through your secondment?

I gained a lot of statistical skills, as I carried out statistical tests that I had never used before. I also got to see the impact my work had on different services, which is not something I directly experienced in my Civil Service roles; my research and feedback were implemented to directly improve the experiences of customers using the services.

My manager at Scope was also extremely supportive of my personal development aims; I came in saying I would like the opportunity to line manage someone, as this was not something I had previously had the chance to do. As such, we created a volunteer role and I hired and managed a volunteer during my time at Scope so that I could get this experience.

As a civil servant, how has your understanding of the not-for-profit sector changed as a result of your secondment?

The main thing I got from my secondment was seeing how deeply everyone cared about the cause of the charity and was committed to its vision, even when not working ‘frontline’ on the services with customers. I also realised how much the charity sector uses government data to inform their decisions and services.

How do you intend to use this learning when you return to government?

I hope to bring this enthusiasm back to the Civil Service, and remind people that even though we are not working in roles where we directly work with the public, everything we do is still for the public’s benefit.

In your view, how can government and the not-for-profit sector work better together going forward?

Perhaps government departments can do more consultations with the charity sector to see what sort of data and information they use from the Civil Service, where there are gaps in this, and if they can work together to fill these gaps or reach more people.

Abbie Cochrane
Natasha Bance
Abbie Cochrane is a GSS Fast Streamer, currently on a placement with the Department for International Trade.