‘I’m in awe of everything civil servants have achieved’: One Civil Service Awards sponsor reflects on a year like no other

Rhona Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Indesser, sets out why the company is backing the Civil Service Awards
Rhona Parry, chief executive officer, Indesser

By Rhona Parry

15 Mar 2021

Indesser is supporting this year’s Civil Service Awards to help recognise the achievements and efforts of civil servants in the last year.

Indesser is a joint venture. We are part owned by the Cabinet Office, and as the government’s debt management service, we collaborate across the private and public sectors to help government use the best available data, technology and analytics to collect debt responsibly, fairly and ethically.

In the last year, we've been at the coalface supporting government during the pandemic and I'm in awe of everything that civil servants across different departments have achieved in the last 12 months. So supporting the awards, and the Collaboration Award in particular, is our way of recognising the incredible effort and tenacity that civil servants across government have demonstrated in that time.

At Indesser, we live and breathe collaboration across the public and the private sectors, so when we were thinking of getting involved, the collaboration award stood out.

The nominees – the National Volunteer Prescription Delivery Scheme (Wales) from the Welsh Government; the PPE Portal Team from the Department of Health and Social Care; and the shielding scheme led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which won the award – were all projects that had huge impact at scale and at speed in an unfolding pandemic. We do collaboration day in, day out, so I know it is not easy. Anyone who has achieved what these projects have must be extraordinary individuals, because it takes a lot of tenacity and a lot of drive to get all of that to come together. That was clear and very impressive.

The coronavirus pandemic has helped overcome a lot of barriers to collaboration, whether it is through the use of technology, or everyone working smarter. We’re also having more authentic and honest conversations with one another – everyone in my team knows a lot more about me and my home life, and you can be a lot more authentic with our government counterparts as well. We have a greater insight into people's lives, and it does lead to more honest conversations and ways of working.

This has led to more collegiate approaches to solving problems together. At Indesser, we work with more than 50 government departments and organisations, and in the past, perhaps you might have wanted them to work closer together. Now that is really happening, and I think that will continue after the pandemic.

Indesser also changed how we worked in the blink of an eye last March. We have more than 500 call agents across the country, who have traditionally always been in an office. Working in collaboration with our government counterparts and partners we all enabled the call agents to work remotely, pretty much overnight.

Collecting debt can be a difficult topic, and we are compassionate in how we approach those conversations especially in terms of understanding how the pandemic has affected people.

We've really focused on using data before we send our first letter, to make sure that we understand as much as we can about that person – have they been through some sort of vulnerable situation, and how can we tailor our communications appropriately?

The identification of vulnerable people has always been at the heart of the work we do here at Indesser. Government departments now, more than ever, want to ensure that we are doing all we can, on their behalf, to identify vulnerability and have sensible and sensitive conversations with people about their situation.

There are people experiencing more financial challenges due to coronavirus. The number one rule we have is we will only collect money that's owed if it's affordable to the individual, and the individual helps us to determine that. It's definitely tough right now, but we are also seeing people saying they are better off this year, and want to clear debt as well.

We have really improved how we interact with the customer, and that will remain the case after Covid. Getting the right information upfront can really deliver better outcomes for everyone.

Rhona Parry is chief executive officer of Indesser

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