Serving communities: Civil Service CSR

Geological Survey CSR agendaNi reports on central government’s commitment to volunteering and the benefits that this delivers in society.

As a large entity with contacts across society, the Civil Service is well-placed for CSR. Staff across several departments and agencies are actively involved in volunteering and educational work and fundraising for local charities.

The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland has been working with Earth Science Ireland to produce a new resources pack for all primary schools in the province. A culmination of over two years’ work, the pack has been developed in partnership with the British Geological Survey, the University of Keele, the CCEA and the Quarry Products Association. Local teachers have been instrumental in writing the content and piloting the pack and a teacher training course was delivered last summer to encourage uptake. The new resources will be formally launched during National Science Week: 13-22 March.

“Firing children’s imagination with science, technology, engineering and maths subjects from an early age will lead to an increased STEM workforce,”

a spokeswoman explained. “The aim of the new resources is to inspire a new generation of scientists, ultimately giving Northern Ireland a competitive advantage on the world economic stage.”

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency allows staff up to three days’ paid leave to participate in approved voluntary activity within any 12-month period – provided that the staff member matches this with an equal commitment from their own leave allowance.

NIEA staff have a strong track record in environmental management, people development and leadership, and community outreach to schools and voluntary groups, and an impressive commitment to charitable fundraising. Additionally, the agency aims to deliver social and economic benefits through a programme of ‘prosperity agreements’ i.e. voluntary agreements through which NIEA and a partnering organisation can explore opportunities for reducing their impact on the environment and heritage in ways that create prosperity and well-being.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety works with Business in the Community to offer employee-supported volunteering opportunities to staff teams. In 2013-2014, teams participated at the gold level which offers five team volunteering projects. A total of 53 employees volunteered and this amounted to 424 volunteer hours.

Challenges included Connect-Ability which aims to help residents with a learning or physical disability to get online, a silver surfers’ day helping over-50s get online, and the Mount Stewart eco-warrior challenge. DHSSPS staff also helped at the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust’s donkey sanctuary, the Positive Futures painting project, and a Santa’s grotto for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.

Similarly, the Department for Employment and Learning has a structured approach to enabling staff teams to volunteer through its people strategy. Thirty-one members of staff volunteered at a recent silver surfers’ event and 17 have been volunteering on the Time to Read programme. The Department of Education’s human resource strategy recognises the value of helping staff to develop team-working skills while contributing as volunteers to the society in which they live. The department’s staff participate in the Time to Read and Count initiative and, at present, nine are working with schools to help children to develop their reading and numeracy skills.

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