Spot the civil servant

Spot the civil servant

Real professionals doing essential work of real value - that’s what the line-up of seven people below shows about the specialists employed in the civil service.

Name: Heather Powell
Place of work: Forensic Science Service laboratory, south London
Job title: Senior forensic scientist
What does the job involve? Forensic scientists provide impartial scientific evidence for courts of law. This is usually as a result of a police enquiry, where scientific evidence is needed to help the police with their investigations. Heather frequently gives evidence in court, and since her evidence is impartial, it can support either the case for the prosecution or defence. Forensic science techniques are used for a wide range of disciplines. Heather’s specialist areas are: comparing materials used to package drugs; examining glass fragments using microscopy and chemical methods; identifying footwear marks and comparing them with footwear; and examining footwear for characteristics imparted by the wearer. Forensic scientists are currently campaigning against privatisation of their service.

Name: Lesley Backhouse
Place of work: Insolvency Service, an executive agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, with two sections: operations and enforcement
Job title: Examiner in insolvency in the enforcement directorate, Birmingham
What does the job involve? Lesley is one of six people in England and Wales whose job is to assess reports carried out by private sector insolvency practitioners dealing with voluntary liquidations, receiverships and so on. She identifies cases where unfit conduct is present, such as non-payment of tax or VAT, or criminal activity. Her department disqualified around 2,000 directors last year. A typical case involved a gangmaster exploiting illegal immigrants and paying them very low wages. Lesley’s remit includes: to ensure rogue directors are taken out of the marketplace; help provide creditors, employees and others with justice; and lessen the burden of financial failure.

Name: Steve Bennett
Place of work: Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire. Part of the Central Council for the Laboratory of the Research Councils.
Job title: Deputy head of physics
What does the job involve? Steve carries out technical, scientific and administrative management of an X-ray experimental station for use by visiting academics, potential commercial users, and for carrying out pure and applied research. Daresbury is the site of the only synchrotron radiation source in the UK. It is used in areas from fundamental physics and chemistry to new magnetic materials for ultra-high density data storage. More medical research is becoming a key strand of the laboratory’s work. The synchrotron radiation source produces high-intensity, low-energy light enabling researchers to examine processes within living cells without destroying them – for example, the study of how drugs kill diseased cells. While working at the cutting edge of technology is rewarding, the lack of investment causes difficulties and frustration.

Name: Asim Hafiz
Place of work: Wandsworth Prison
Job title: Muslim chaplain
What does the job involve? Asim works in a multi-faith team with colleagues of Roman Catholic, Church of England and ecumenical faiths. He organises Friday services and regular religious classes, which play an important part in rehabilitating prisoners. Asim and his colleagues also offer general pastoral care to all prisoners. Asim has established the right for Muslim prisoners to wear a prayer cap; and for halal meals to be served in a way that prevents cross-contamination with pork and other non-halal products. He also works with the local Muslim community to help resettle prisoners after their release.

Name: John Pain
Place of work: National Weights and Measures Laboratory, Middlesex
Job title: Metrology unit manager
What does the job involve? John and his colleagues ensure measurement in the UK is fair, accurate and legal. Their work includes regulating measuring instruments. For example, John’s work results in the correct amount of petrol being dispensed from petrol pumps. He also checks the weight and calibration of the balls used in the National Lottery. The laboratory resisted a privatisation bid by the government three years ago.

Name: Mick Upfield
Place of work: Ordnance Survey, Oxfordshire office. The government’s mapping agency for Great Britain is a government department and executive agency operating as a Trading Fund, and also earns commercial revenues for its geographical information
Job title: Surveyor
What does the job involve? With one other full-timer and one contractor, Mick brings up to date all mapping references in his area, using global positioning systems, satellite navigation, electronic measurement devices and tape measures. Most of his work involves adding new houses, roads, building sites and other commercial and industrial developments to the country’s map network. He also carries out surveys for the Land Registry to speed up the process of house buying and selling, and is involved in all the groundwork for in-car navigation systems, such as noting one-way systems.

Name: Joe Hoskins
Place of work: Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Part of the Central Council for the Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), near Oxford.
Job title: Technical training co-ordinator
What does the job involve? Joe is helping to tackle Britain’s shortage of skilled engineers by overseeing the recruitment and training of apprentices at RAL, who get involved in prototyping, servicing and repairing very specialist equipment. He visits careers fairs and schools, encouraging young people to join the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, and organises their training both in-house and at local colleges.