Operational Delivery chief Ruth Owen on helping the civil service take on apprentices and her plans for 2017

Written by Civil Service World on 12 December 2016 in Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Ruth Owen, head of the Operational Delivery Profession and director general, customer services, HMRC, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

What was your highlight of 2016?
Getting Operational Delivery people together is always great as my colleagues bring energy and focus to every event they attend. At the start of the year we had a celebration for all ODP professionals who had been nominated for Civil Service Awards in 2015. Each nomination was read out, with some sharing their experiences and lessons with the whole room of several hundred people. Lots of good ideas were shared and contacts made to enable us to join up our work across departments better. But I won’t forget the standing ovation (and the tears) listening to what it was like in working in a team tackling Ebola in Africa – all of them civil servants working in operational roles, and making a big difference, which is what we are all about.

What has been the most significant change in your profession this year?
The introduction of the ODP level 3 apprenticeship has been a big and exciting piece of work within the profession. We have played a key role in helping departments to contribute towards the commitment to have three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of bringing talented people into the civil service and equipping them to deliver excellent customer service. So far we have over 3,000 across the profession. I have met some of them and they bring a wealth of experience and fresh perspectives with them. I look forward to there being many more in the year to come!

"Good and joined-up planning with departments is at the heart of how we plan to continue the Surge team’s success"

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
Last year I mentioned the setting up of our Surge and Rapid Response team. The team continues to work across government departments to assist in providing key services to customers where departments have peaks of work or unexpected crises. Having been in place about 18 months and proving highly successful, the team is now expanding. Making sure we have the team skilled and ready to be deployed at short notice to multiple different departments has proved challenging. Good and joined-up planning with departments is at the heart of how we plan to continue the team’s success.

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
My iPad was probably the best Christmas present I have had since the Christmas I received a Rupert Bear (a few years ago). My iPad has literally changed the way I live. We recently had a holiday without TV and I didn’t really miss it as we used our iPads instead – for news, music, contacts and keeping in touch.

My worst present ever has to be a hoover. That relationship never quite recovered!

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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Nigel Morgan (not verified)

Submitted on 3 January, 2017 - 14:06
I work for DWP in N Wales, and went to the presentation on surge apprentices in Cardiff Civil service Live 2016, and thought it was a great idea, and very impressed by the presentation and speakers. At the moment the teams seem to work out of hubs, but there are no hubs within a couple of hours travel of N Wales. I know that we have local young people interested in these opportunities, but would find it too expensive to re locate. As it is predominantly a rapid deployment team, Is there scope for remote working at all? Nige

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