Civil Service Awards recognise pandemic innovation and community spirit

Cross government employment-aid efforts, apprenticeships drive and founder of eating-disorder support group among latest recipients

By CSW staff

25 Feb 2021

Cross-government projects to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help colleagues and members of the public feature prominently among the latest crop of Civil Service Awards winners.

After a year like no other, awards judges recognised the work of teams who rolled out the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, as well as those who procured thousands of hospital ventilators and billions of items of PPE.

Around half of the 16 awards revealed today went to individuals or teams whose efforts contributed directly to the government’s Covid-19 work. For others – like second-time Citizenship Award winner Sarah Morton and Rising Star Award winner Abigail Agyei – the pandemic added another dimension to their existing work.

Elsewhere, work such as DVLA’s drive to clamp down on vehicle-tax evasion and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Inclusion Apprenticeships Programme, showed that organisational goals still need attention even in the most extraordinary times.

HM Revenue and Customs and HM Treasury’ CJRS, SEISS and Eat Out To Help Out teams won the Public Service Award for their work in rapidly rolling out schemes to help millions of workers and self-employed people through the crisis. The schemes were delivered as a partnership between experts from the departments operating as a single virtual team.

The Cabinet Office’s Complex Transactions Team won the Commercial Award for its Covid-19 response, which supported the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement. It enabled the delivery of 15,154 ventilators, which were designed and built in four and a half months; procured 32 billion items of PPE and oversaw daily testing capacity increase from 3,000 to 100,000 in the space of six weeks.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s shielding team won the Collaboration Award for its cross-government work to protect those most vulnerable to Covid-19. It oversaw unprecedented collaboration with DHSC, the Government Digital Service, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Cabinet Office, NHSE and NHS Digital. It contacted 2.2 million people over four months and delivered 4.7 million food boxes.

The Government Office for Science’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) secretariat won the Policy & Use of Evidence Award for providing timely, impactful advice to the Cabinet. Sage, which is co-chaired by chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty, first met in January to discuss an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan. Since then, it has delivered more than 60 meetings and released 400 papers to help ministers’ coronavirus response. GO-Science is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Resilience & Rapid Response Award was won by the cross-government Isolation Note team, which brings together DHSC, DWP, NHSX and NHS Digital. The Isolation Note was introduced at the start of the pandemic as a digital means for people to certify absence from work for Covid-19 reasons via NHS111 Online. More than 2 million Isolation Notes had been issued by the end of 2020, protecting GPs’ clinical time, safeguarding access to benefits, and reassuring employers and employees.

The Science Award was won by the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s International Travel Risk Assessment Team for its work with Public Health England to develop innovative models to inform the government on the risk of entry of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to the UK. The team’s results fed into policy discussions on countries posing the highest travel risks and alternative health measures to 14-day self-isolation.

The full list of winners is:

The Citizenship Award: Sarah Morton. Department for Work and Pensions staff member Sarah supports homeless people in Liverpool, assists with food banks, and works to eliminate period poverty. She encourages her colleagues to recognise the hardships faced by vulnerable citizens.

The Collaboration Award: MHCLG Shielding. On 22 March 2020, the government introduced new shielding health guidance and a support offer for the people most vulnerable to Covid-19. It saw unprecedented collaboration between departments. Over four months, 2.2 million people were contacted by the programme, 1.2 million signed up to the website, and 4.7 million food boxes were delivered to over 500,000 people.

The Commercial Award: Complex Transactions Team – Covid-19 Response. The Cabinet Office team deployed 57 commercial specialists to Covid-19 “cells” dealing with ventilation, testing, Nightingale Hospitals, PPE and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. They led on the delivery of commercial arrangements to secure supplies and services.

The Communication Award: DVLA Vehicle Tax Evasion Campaign 2020. The agency delivered a fully integrated behaviour change communications campaign at the start of 2020 using communications targeted on the highest evasion areas in the UK.

The Developing People Award: Inclusion Apprenticeship Programme. The FCDO designed an inclusive resourcing process focusing on equity of opportunity for all applicants, regardless of their social or educational background. It included outreach events, a social media campaign and the targeting of marginalised candidates.

The Digital, Data & Technology Award: Get Your State Pension. DWP’s digital service has transformed the way citizens claim their state pension. Within two years it has progressed from being a mainly form-based service to become the first benefit which can award and pay customers without any agent intervention.

The Diversity & Inclusion Award: Campaign & Projects Leeds D&I Group. HMRC’s Leeds D&I group brings together a diverse collection of 400 people and highlights the benefits these differences bring. It has delivered more than 30 awareness campaigns in recent months.

The Health & Wellbeing Award: Gillian Whitworth. FCDO staff member Gillian is committed to raising awareness of eating disorders, an issue often stigmatised and overlooked. At BEIS, she collaborated with colleagues to form the first Eating Disorder Support Group across the civil service and has continued to raise awareness at the FCDO.

The Innovation Award: Accelerated Capability Environment. The Home Office's ACE team solve public-safety challenges from data and digital technology, at the pace demanded by a fast-changing world. It has challenged conventional problem-solving, introducing agile, collaborative ways of working that accelerate solution-finding from years to months or weeks.

The Inspirational Leadership Award: Chris Atkinson. Northern Ireland Office staff member Chris has led work to establish a scheme for payments to recognise and support those seriously injured through no fault of their own during the Troubles.

The Policy & Use of Evidence Award: GO-Science Covid Sage Secretariat. Sage has convened hundreds of experts and leading specialists from the UK's scientific community to advise the cabinet. The secretariat has championed independence, proactivity and transparency, welcomed challenges and provided an authoritative, unified voice to inform the UK's Covid-19 response.

The Project Delivery Excellence Award: Virtual Machine Environment – Replacement (Jobseekers Allowance). The project to replace DWP's benefit systems within the UK's National Critical Infrastructure was the biggest in Europe. It was done in-house by DWP Digital and Service Planning and Delivery colleagues with zero disruption to DWP benefit operations at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Public Service Award: Joint HMRC/HMT, CJRS, SEISS and EOHO Teams. The CJRS – or furlough scheme - has helped employers pay the wages of 9 million people while the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has helped 2.7 million people. Thousands of businesses were helped by the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

The Resilience & Rapid Response Award: The Isolation Note: DHSC, DWP, NHSX and NHSD. The Isolation Note was introduced at the start of the pandemic as a digital way to certify absence from work for Covid-19 reasons. The initiative has acted as a springboard for future government improvements around certification requirements.

The Rising Star Award: Abigail Agyei. MHCLG’s Abigail received her award for supporting marginalised and minority communities and amplifying their voices. She has helped victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and worked with faith and BAME communities as part of MHCLG’s pandemic response. She has been instrumental in leading on race in the civil service.

The Science Award: International Travel Risk Assessment Team. The Animal and Plant Health Agency team worked with Public Health England to develop innovative models to inform the government on the risk of SARS-CoV-2 entering the UK through international travel. Team members stepped outside their scientific comfort zone and displayed fantastic teamwork to aid PHE at a demanding time.

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