Personal disability stories: Part 7 – Seonaid's story

2 Nov 2018 03:55 PM

Blog posted by: , 2 November 2018 – Categories: A Brilliant Civil ServiceCivil Service LeadersDiversity and inclusion.

Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary for the Home Office, and Civil Service Disability Champion

Many of you will be familiar with my ongoing series of personal disability stories.

Alongside mental health, a commonly recognised disability that people rarely talk about is cancer.

Statistics show that 1 in 2 of us is diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime and nearly 1 million working-age people have a diagnosis of cancer. It is important, therefore, that we tackle the taboo that surrounds talking about cancer, and do all we can to ensure that people are supported and feel able to continue working, should they wish to do so, or return to work after treatment.

I am grateful and pleased to introduce Seonaid Webb, who will tell you about her experience of cancer, and why she has set up the Home Office Working Through Cancer network. She is joined by Chris Green and Phil Hill, who will share their experiences of living with cancer, as a carer and a line manager, respectively.

Seonaid's story

Black and white portrait image of Seonaid Webb

Seonaid Webb

After a cancer diagnosis in 2016, I wrote about my experience on an internal Home Office blog. The mental health implications of physical illnesses are often overlooked, but I have never felt more scared and anxious than I did during the early months post-diagnosis.

I was contacted by more than a hundred colleagues who wanted to share their personal journeys as well as challenges they have faced in the workplace after their own cancer diagnoses.

I realised there was a gap in targeted support, in line manager confidence when it comes to managing people with cancer, and in support for primary carers of someone with cancer (the ‘silent sufferers’). That is why I launched the Home Office Working Through Cancer network in September to support people at work who are impacted by cancer. It is a network for staff, created and managed by staff.

The network is run by more than 70 volunteers and focuses on three key aims:

  1. Buddy groups – for individuals, carers and line managers – offering the opportunity to talk to someone who 'gets it' and who can empathise with the significant challenges being faced
  2. A training session co-designed with Macmillan Cancer Support – to increase line managers’ confidence in supporting members of staff through their diagnosis and treatment 
  3. A dedicated intranet page – offering a one-stop-shop for advice, support, links to HR policies and training sessions, and case studies of good practice

Home Office Working Through Cancer logo






Chris Green and Phil Hill are members of the Working Through Cancer network and offered to share their experiences.

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