Civil servant and charity employee blog about their experience shadowing each other

A Day in the Life is a work shadow scheme between civil society and civil service. It matches employees from the two sectors and allows them to shadow each other for a day at work

Emma Kosmin of London Youth was partnered with Robin Webb of the Low Wage Commission. They have written a joint blog post about their experience.

‘A Day in the Life…’ is, as well as one of my favourite Beatles songs, an excellent work shadowing scheme from NCVO. I think the scheme is a great learning opportunity for anyone who works in the charity sector and anyone who wants to understand how government works. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

I work at London Youth , a network of 400 community youth organisations across London. We work with youth clubs across London and promote youth work. London Youth also leads on an employability scheme for young Londoners called Talent Match.

I was really pleased when I was matched with Robin from the Low Pay Commission. I have a personal and professional interest in employment rights and low paid works, so was really impressed that NCVO had managed to get me such a good match.

I met my shadowing partner shortly after we were matched with each other. I told him about the work we do as a membership of youth clubs, explained some of the challenges and successes of youth work – and suggested some options for his shadowing day with London Youth.

In the morning of Robin’s shadowing day he joined us for a quarterly meeting of the Young Londoners Participation Network, a group coordinated in partnership between London Youth and the Greater London Authority. The meeting that we attended focused on Housing and Homelessness, and saw 100 youth participation professionals explore how best to serve young people’s housing needs. Some shocking stories were heard, some great ideas were had, and a moment of inspiration occurred in which it was agreed that a campaign network should be formed to demand change on aspects of the system which do not provide fairly for young Londoners.

In the end, this campaign group was not set up and remained just an idea. It was interesting that Robin seemed frustrated by this when leaving the meeting. This had showed him the challenges faced by the VCS first hand. He said that had there been collective feeling like that in “his world”, action groups would have been set-up, research commissioned, change enacted.

However this meeting showed the start reality of many VCS organisations. There is neither the funding nor the internal capacity to develop some great ideas. Delivering services and surviving this challenging climate must take precedent. Although frustrating, this experience gave Robin and insight into the sector – and that’s what A Day in the Life is all about.

The second half of the shadowing day was spent in the London Youth offices meeting my colleagues, followed by a visit to a youth centre in Whitechapel. I left hugely excited for my shadowing day at the Low Pay Commission.

The Low Pay Commission is the body that looks at the level of the National Minimum Wage in Britain. They conduct research and engage with stakeholder to find out what the economic impact of previous increases to the NMW has been. One of its most important functions is to make recommendations to government on what the levels of the NMW should be.

On my day at the LPC, I attended one of their oral evidence sessions, in which they heard form a number of organisations about the impact of the levels of the Minimum Wage of various groups such as young people – an in particular about the impact of unpaid internships.

It was a really fantastic experience. The day gave me a great insight into the workings of the Commission and the importance of its research and recommendations, and made me realise that channels to share your work are much more open than you might think.

I was able to attend and listen to all the evidence presented, and, when I was asked at the end what I thought, I suggested that they come to meet some of the young people who work with London Youth. They were keen to hear from young people themselves – which is always a very good sign.

Off the back of the scheme, six months on, a group of Commissioners came to visit London Youth and meet with some of the young people from our Youth Advisory Board. The Commissioners asked the young people about how the different levels of the Minimum Wage – and particularly the Apprenticeship Wage – affected their participation in the Labour Market. The young people discussed their stories and told Commissioners how they felt about the different rates of pay and the Commissioners shared some of the arguments for and against the rates being as they are.

The two groups left the meeting with a lot to think about, having shared in some great discussions, and having taken each other’s experiences and perspectives on board – exactly what shadowing is all about.

Robin added:

A Day in the Life reminded me that, at times, the civil service is pretty bureaucratic. A Day in the Life really did show me was the different challenges faced by the VCS and Civil Service. A meeting like the one I attended at London Youth, that brought together all that know-how and those ideas – in the civil service – would have resulted in some sort of action plan. One individual or team would have been charged with taking those ideas forward, developing them and seeing what was feasible. As it happened, all those ideas remained just that. Yes, this would have required some bureaucracy, and liaising internally and externally, but something would have been done.

One the other end of the spectrum, the visit to the Youth Club was a great reminder that there is still a big place for on-the-ground, person driven services. When people have the freedom and resources to get on with what they are passionate about, and what they’re good at – great things can happen.

I really enjoyed my day and the contrasting elements in it. It highlighted how different the VCS and Civil Service can be but also highlighted how we can mutually supportive of each other. The fact that the Low Pay Commission was got to meet young Londoners to discuss issues surrounding the Minimum Wage was a great bonus.

Signing up to A Day in the Life is really simple. The application form and information about the scheme can be found on the NCVO website.

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