Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has praised the “unparalleled lengths” civil servants are going to in order to keep the nation safe and fed during the coronavirus outbreak.
In a message of support and recognition ahead of the Easter weekend, Sedwill recognised that the work of departmental staff was not limited to day jobs but also included volunteering work. He said there was “no doubt” that many of the 750,000 individuals who have volunteered to help the NHS in recent days would be civil servants.
Careful to refer to the wider efforts of “public servants”, Sedwill used his e-mail update to staff to applaud the work of particular departments – including the Department for Education, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
“I want to highlight some examples of the brilliant work you are all doing,” he said. “For example, DfE is supporting families while schools are closed by launching a national scheme last week to give supermarket vouchers to cover the cost of meals for around 1.3 million children who are eligible for free school meals.
“To help the food industry respond to unprecedented demand, Defra has rapidly introduced new measures to keep food supply flowing, extending delivery hours to supermarkets and permitting extensions to delivery hours to homes.
“I also want to recognise the civil servants who are working under extreme pressure to maintain our criminal justice system: from those in the courts system delivering thousands of digital hearings, to prison staff adopting exceptional regimes to aid social distancing, and probation officers focused on protecting communities.”
Over the weekend, HMP Pentonville reported that two of its prison officers had died. The deaths were understood to be related to Covid-19.
Sedwill also praised the work of consular and other staff overseas in the UK’s diplomatic posts who are helping thousands of British citizens to get home. He said their efforts had included tripling the capacity of call centres so that people could get access to emergency consular assistance.
The cabinet secretary noted the fragile health of prime minister Boris Johnson, who is in intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital receiving treatment for Covid-19.
“I know you will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery, and in extending our best wishes to his fiancée and family,” Sedwill said.
“While, of course, we miss his leadership, let me reassure you that the business of government and our work as public servants continues unaffected.”
Sedwill concluded his message by calling on civil servants to keep safe, look after themselves, their families and the country – and to try and find time to relax over the bank holiday weekend “within the restrictions”.