Background

The Consular Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) assists British people living, travelling and working around the world.

Consular staff at their embassies, high commissions and consulates, and in the FCO in London, provide assistance to people who have been victims of crime, hospitalised, arrested, bereaved.  Staff are routinely faced with distressing situations and are often exposed to poor conditions in hospitals, prisons etc.

The FCO takes seriously its duty of care to all its staff; an “obligation to take reasonable steps to protect its employees from reasonably foreseeable harm which might occur as a result of their work.”

 

The Challenge

A study commissioned by the Consular Directorate in 2012 recommended that “routine and ad hoc clinical supervision should be made more available to all staff wherever they are in the world”. The report noted that whilst the FCO’s support for staff overall was of a high standard, its support for front-line staff welfare did not compare with that provided by other organisations who offer regular supervision to their staff in similar roles – for example the Homicide Service. Consular Directorate examined a number of options for providing additional support and trialled peer supervision, but concluded that this would not meet fully the needs of the Directorate.

 

The Solution

In 2016 the Consular Management Board (CMB) instructed the team responsible for staff welfare in Consular Directorate to look at best practice in welfare support. The team consulted organisations including Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), British Red Cross, Australian and Canadian Foreign Ministries, colleagues within the FCO, and online. Following discussions with CiC, Consular Directorate ran a pilot project for a quarterly Wellbeing Supervision for 57 members of staff in the UK and overseas. CiC delivered a Professional Support Programme to the FCO which they called their Wellbeing Supervision Programme. This programme comprised quarterly 50 minute sessions delivered per person, in confidence at their place of work.

The FCO conducted evaluation surveys throughout the pilot, benchmarked against a wellbeing survey conducted in 2017. The results of the evaluation concluded that whilst 75% of staff had felt stressed/anxious about work in the last year and 47% worked through their lunch break every day, 74% of staff agreed that the pilot gave them “a space to talk and reflect” and 61% felt better supported in managing their wellbeing.

 

The Outcome

In May 2018 the FCO agreed to roll out the programme to all consular staff who spend a significant proportion of their time on frontline casework. By way of a tender process CiC was awarded the contract to deliver the Professional Support Programme – FCO’s Wellbeing Supervision Programme – for a 3 year term to all front-line Consular staff across the world. The first sessions were delivered during June 2019.