Arrival Education Interview with Drew Morris, Head of Social Mobility at the Ministry of Justice

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Earlier this year at the Making the Leap Social Mobility Awards launch event, we met the team responsible for driving Social Mobility at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The Arrival Education Team were really impressed and intrigued by the approach the MoJ is taking to social mobility and asked if they would be happy to share some of their insights.

This summer, the MoJ were recognised for their work by placing third in the Social Mobility Foundation’s second annual Social Mobility Index, ahead of many prestigious global organisations – a great acknowledgement of the work they have undertaken. Drew Morris, Head of Social Mobility at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), kindly answered our questions. He explained that when it comes to Social Mobility, right now is an exciting time for the MoJ. At their first Social Mobility Live conference in November 2017, they launched a Social Mobility Action Plan intended to embed social mobility as a goal throughout the organisation. The plan was refreshed in March 2018 and is now in action across the MoJ, with some incredible results….

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Why is social mobility such a big focus for the Ministry of Justice?

At the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the reasons why we are so passionate about improving social mobility can be split in to two groups: the moral case and the business case.

Firstly, there is a moral case for social mobility, which is about equality and fairness. We recognise that not everyone has the same life chances, but that this should not be a barrier to enjoying a rewarding career in MoJ. This is summed up by our social mobility slogan: where you start out in life should not determine where you end up.

Secondly, the business case. As a large public-sector organisation, we need to represent the people we serve. Moreover, research shows that inclusion leads to better results; by attracting, recruiting and developing staff with a range of different outlooks and backgrounds, we will be able to make better decisions and generate more creative solutions to the myriad challenges posed by a rapidly-changing world.

Where you start out in life should not determine where you end up.

– Drew Morris, Head of Social Mobility at the MoJ

How did you develop the action plan?

Our action plan was built through an in-depth consultation with academics, industry leaders and, crucially, our staff. We set up a steering group which provided governance and a working group to capture the input of as diverse a range of staff across the MoJ as possible. The plan was launched at our first Social Mobility Live conference in November  and refreshed in March.

The plan seems very multi-faceted and has lots of different components to help increase social mobility at every level – why do you think it’s so important to have all of these elements?

At the beginning of our work on the action plan, the MoJ Social Mobility Champion, Director-General Matthew Coats, set the challenge of delivering the best possible product which would genuinely make a difference, to both the department and to wider UK society. Shaun McNally CBE, who took over as MoJ Social Mobility Champion earlier this year, has maintained this focus on outcomes.

We took inspiration from the scope of the Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index and committed to being able to tell a consistent, impactful story from the point of engaging a young person entering the world of work, right the way through to appealing to long-serving staff who were facing barrier to progression.

This necessitated both a programmatic approach, whereby the deliverables in the action plan were monitored regularly and the adoption of an agile mindset. We designed and launched initiatives at pace and adapted them on the back of user feedback, rather than waiting to design and release the “perfect product”, only for the momentum to have been lost.

What do you want your action plan to achieve?

We have set ourselves stretching objectives ranging from shorter-term aims to longer-term objectives. In the short-term, one example is our aim to build a coherent and comprehensive picture of the socio-economic backgrounds of staff at the MoJ. A second is promoting the diversity of socio-economic backgrounds in line with the Civil Service and MoJ diversity and inclusion strategies by increasing awareness of social mobility issues and responsibilities in the workplace.

Our longer-term objectives include making the MoJ a leading employer that openly values social inclusion and promotes social mobility, identifying and removing the barriers that prevent staff from achieving their potential. We want to attract and optimise talent from all backgrounds.

What are your outcomes so far?

We have put social mobility on the agenda in the MoJ and it now forms part of the department’s commitment to become the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020. The plan has been in place less than a year and already we have seen some excellent results, including:

  • The MoJ placed third in this year’s Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index out of more than 100 UK organisations.
  • We have worked with almost 30,000 pupils from disadvantaged areas and set up a work experience scheme (STEP into Justice) which is more than halfway to delivering its target of 200 placements for pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds in 2018.
  • Our Catapult mentoring and sponsorship scheme is into its second round, with more than 240 staff participating as mentees. They are provided with a senior-level sponsor to help with career progression.
  • We surveyed all staff on their socio-economic background and used the findings to formulate targets to drive change.
  • We changed our supplier policy to ask suppliers for a commitment to social mobility.
  • We surveyed all staff on their socio-economic background and used the findings to formulate targets to drive change.
  • We developed and now run a scheme for care leavers, with more than 20 ringfenced roles on offer across the department.
  • We built an internship scheme in partnership with Middlesex University, offering eight-week funded work placements in MoJ Digital.
  • We developed and now run a scheme for care leavers, with more than 20 ringfenced roles on offer across the department.
  • We worked with young people from low-income backgrounds in social mobility cold spots by forming partnerships with Oldham Sixth Form College and the EY Foundation in Bradford, focusing our efforts on developing students’ employability skills and career aspirations.
  • Finally, we have made major structural changes to the fabric of the organisation, phasing in strength-based recruitment and selection, supporting the Civil Service’s forthcoming transition to selecting staff via Success Profiles. We’ve also promoted an apprenticeships strategy which offers all staff the opportunity to build their skills by undertaking a qualification up to degree level. We’ve committed to delivering around 1,500 apprenticeship starts each year by 2020.

Overall the action plan has already made a huge difference, however there is more to do, which we are working hard to achieve.

Embedding a major project like this can have major challenges which means that a programme may get watered down or be seen as peripheral – what approach have you taken at the MOJ to avoid this?

Getting a Board-level sponsor at the outset was vital – it provided a voice at the top table as well as the drive to get things done.

Delivering any type of people transformation programme in a large organisation is tricky, but by approaching the Social Mobility Programme as a large culture change project, we have been able to evidence the benefits case from day one, driving forward activity with a focus on delivery and clear accountabilities.

It helps that the MoJ is a department with a strong culture of inclusivity, role-modelled from the top by our Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton.


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