Andrew Rhodes: Whitehall operational delivery chief reflects on 2017’s introduction of the largest welfare reforms in generations
At the end of 2017, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without
What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
The sheer scale and breadth of what we’ve done – this year we’ve been rolling out the largest reforms to the welfare system in generations, negotiated our way through the largest estates programme in Europe, recruited or moved thousands of people in DWP with 20% of our people either being new to us or new to their jobs and introduced new terms and conditions and ways of working for our people – all at the same time, while continuing to deliver the biggest operation in government.
What’s great about DWP is that our people really care about doing the right thing for our customers and this often doesn’t get reported in the press. So we have been so pleased to see customer satisfaction improve yet again this year.
Thousands of our people have put a lot of hard work into that and I am proud of the scale and complexity of what we’ve delivered.
What was your most difficult decision in 2017?
One of the harder things about my role has been seeing up close some of the tragic events of this year. I couldn’t be prouder of the role DWP colleagues have played, helping people get back on their feet at their greatest time of need.
From Grenfell to terrorist attacks – our teams on the ground told us that nothing could have prepared them for what they found. And it’s those stories that have been the hardest to hear. But that’s what makes working in DWP so rewarding for me: behind every payment, phonecall, interview is a real person whose life we are changing. For our people, no matter what role they played, they are unlikely to have public acknowledgement, but they made a very real difference to someone in distress.
What are your top priorities in the year ahead?
We will be completing many of the reforms already well underway, and behind the scenes, we’re continuing to transform the way we work so that we can keep meeting customers’ changing needs, including upgrading our technology and moving lots of our people within DWP. Underpinning all this change will be a comprehensive new core skills programme – introducing continuous professional development for all of our people, giving them skills that will be transportable across government.
For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without.
Playing the trumpet. I am really bad at it but played carols with colleagues in the office last Christmas and I try to do something like that every year. I’m not sure people like it much, if I’m honest.