With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Ruth Owen, head of the government's Operational Delivery Profession, takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...
How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your profession in 2015?
The biggest challenge, and our biggest success this year, has been in addressing operational surges in demand through the creation of our Surge and Rapid Response Team.
Last year, we agreed across departments that we needed new capability and capacity to address known increases in demand for our operational teams, such as the summer rush for passports and the January tax return deadline, as well as unexpected crises needing additional resource.
As operational professions do, we got on with delivering it. We rapidly built a whole new team of 200 apprentices who work across all government departments, wherever the need arises. This team are absolutely brilliant! They are demonstrating new ways of working across the civil service in a way we didn’t even imagine. In six months, they have been deployed in DWP, HMRC, Border Force, the FCO, Visas and Immigration and the Rural Payments Agency. The team have proved themselves adept at taking on specific areas of work and delivering high productivity. And they are enjoying it too – their People Survey scores at 78% puts them near the top of the civil service for engagement.
What are your profession’s top priorities in the year ahead?
I want to keep building on the momentum of the Surge and Rapid Response Team – and am looking to expand the team and the range of departments they can support next year.
And in the context of the Spending Review, all departments are looking at new ways to deliver their services at lower cost. As a profession we want to capitalise on that and ensure we align our thinking, so that our transformation programmes work in tandem and we don’t reinvent the wheel in each department. Working together to redefine operations of the future should also give us a chance to rethink the roles and skills of the future for the profession.
What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
We will be at my sister’s for Christmas Day and I don’t know what games she has in store for us this year (although I should say that even at the age of 49 she does still cheat at board games!). Christmas Day is always a good time to watch a tear-jerker film and, as a true romantic, I hope to snivel watching Love Actually for the umpteenth time!
Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016