Volunteering for Impact: DfT’s Social Mobility Network

Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if more people volunteered in their local communities? The Department for Transport’s dynamic Social Mobility Network, co-Chaired by writers Carole Lovstrom and Charlotte Bedford, enables all DfT employees to do just that, while receiving paid special leave for three days every year.

Despite having incredibly demanding jobs, (Carole, the Head of Ministerial Briefing, Public Affairs, and Correspondence, and Charlotte, the Senior Policy Advisor in the Aviation Decarbonisation Division at the Department for Transport), both Carole and Charlotte find immense value in investing their time to support people in disadvantaged situations. That’s why they chose to use one of their three days of paid special leave to serve in their local community. Keep reading to see what they got up to during their Christmas volunteering experience!

Carole Lovstrom and Charlotte Bedford volunteer for DONS Local Action Group

Carole’s story

When Charlotte asked me what I was doing at the weekend I didn’t realise it would lead to such an eventful Saturday. Charlotte is the other, very enthusiastic, co-Chair of the DfT Social Mobility Network, so I knew she would be interested in giving back to local communities. 

I have volunteered in Colliers Wood, South West London since 2020, gathering food outside Sainsbury’s stores for those living below the poverty line. This is part of a bigger organisation, DONS Local Action Group (DLAG), which is run by AFC Wimbledon. As volunteers. we collect food from several supermarkets, which then gets sent to a hub to be boxed up and delivered to local people who are in need.

Carole volunteers with DONS in London

So that was going to be my Saturday morning to which Charlotte very enthusiastically asked to tag along… from Essex. I know many people are interested in volunteering, but not so many would be willing to travel an hour and a half to share the experience with me. From arrival, Charlotte was a natural, setting up the stall, talking and listening to customers’ stories, asking what they were giving and why. So, as you can imagine, working alongside her was effortless. 

After the shift, we visited the hub where food boxes are prepared. The moment Charlotte got to meet my lovely DONS/Sainsbury’s family gave me a lot of joy! Mostly, I was glad that they got to meet someone who was just as excited about their work. It was a busy Saturday, but eventful as it was, it was a treat to have Charlotte come along and I hope she wasn’t too exhausted! 

DONS Local Action Group (DLAG) Food Hub in Southwest London

Charlotte’s story – My first shift for the DONS Local Action Group

I’d mentioned to Carole that I wanted to do some volunteering in the run-up to Christmas, particularly as I have personally seen how difficult Christmas can be for those in financial hardship, but also how the kindness of others can make all the difference. I wanted to do my ‘bit’ and help those in need of financial support, so when Carole mentioned the DONS Local Action Group, I jumped at the chance to join her. 

The first thing that hit me was the food that we were asking for – tinned vegetables, meat, fruit, and fish. Food that seems so basic – a ‘staple’ in the back of people’s cupboards – but vital for a family who needs to make it stretch for a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Carole, being the absolute star that she is, managed to get selection boxes on the list, so we collected a fair few! As someone with younger siblings, I know that an abundance of chocolate is the best thing in the world at Christmas (albeit not quite so good for the teeth!), so I was delighted to know that children in the area, who are living in circumstances entirely out of their control, wouldn’t go without. 

Carole and Charlotte volunteer to pack food for underprivileged households

It really hit home when we visited the hub though. There were boxes upon boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables, nappies, tampons, and sanitary towels – items that we so often take for granted. I appreciated how the hub, which is run solely by volunteers, had been so brilliantly organised. There were vegetarian boxes, vegan, halal, kids’ boxes – it was just fantastic. I felt completely inspired and urge anyone who has the time, to consider doing something similar in their local area. 

What is the DfT Social Mobility Network?

The Social Mobility Network is one of many Staff Network Groups at the Department for Transport. It’s vision is to help positively shape DfT into a place where educational background and where you’re from doesn’t limit progression through the Civil Service. The aim of the network is to actively increase diversity in the Department for Transport and create more opportunities for people from low socio-economic backgrounds.  

DfT has a dedicated team of volunteers who represent the Social Mobility Network alongside their normal day-to-day role, reaching out across the UK to as many people as possible who may be negatively impacted by their socio-economic background. Whether that’s people in colleges and universities, prison leavers, or care leavers… The network’s goal is to bring insight into working for the Civil Service. To help people find a job that’s best suited to them and provide advice on applying for those jobs.  

As co-Chairs of the Social Mobility Network, Carole Lovstrom and Charlotte Bedford lead a team of volunteer communications, analyst and recruitment experts, as well as a wider network made up of more than 100 people to make positive change within DfT and in the community.

Top 75 Employer for Social Mobility

We’re delighted to announce that The Department for Transport was recently awarded the 29th position in the Top 75 Employers for Social Mobility across the UK in 2021. We’re proud to be recognised as a Leader in social mobility by The Social Mobility Employer Index, an organisation which compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job in England, and analyses how well employers hire diverse talent across this criteria.

We are dedicated to championing Social Mobility at DfT and continue to work towards improving the socio-economic make-up of the Department. 

The Department for Transport receives award for Top 75 Employer by Social Mobility Employer Index 2021