The Government has published its long-awaited Resilience Framework which contains a wide range of changes that will affect Local Resilience Forums, the role of the voluntary and private sectors. indicating a firm direction of travel and the commitment to a whole of society approach to resilience.
The Framework, published in December 2022, sets out how the Government will deliver on a new strategic approach to resilience in line with the commitments made in the 2021 Integrated Review. It is based on three principles: the need to have a shared understanding of the risks faced by the UK; the need for a focus on prevention and preparation and third, resilience requires a whole of society approach.
In his foreword, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon. Oliver Dowden MP wrote,
“Working together to build our national resilience will mean we are better equipped to tackle the challenges that come our way, ensuring businesses grow, our communities thrive and citizens can build a brighter future.”
A plan for 2030
Focusing on the foundational building blocks of resilience, the Framework sets out the plan to 2030 to strengthen the frameworks, systems and capabilities which underpin the UK’s resilience to all civil contingencies risks. The actions include a theme focused on communities that commits the Government to offer better guidance to Local Resilience Forums (LRF) and local partners in England, by 2025.
There is a commitment to review models of funding for LRFs ‘to ensure they are appropriate to the expectations placed upon them.’ Money will also be provided to develop a new Resilience Academy linked with the Emergency Planning College. Alongside this, there will be a ‘reinvigorated’ national exercising programme to test preparedness ‘throughout the resilience system’.
New oversight of resilience
Prior to its publication, the Government made changes that saw the demise of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and the creation of a new Resilience Directorate in the Cabinet Office. The Resilience Directorate will lead on the implementation of measures in the Framework. A Head of Resilience will be appointed, and the Government will deliver an annual statement to Parliament on contingency risk and resilience. The Cabinet Office Briefing Room will continue to bring people together to respond to domestic and international emergencies affecting UK interests.
The National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) is the main tool for assessing the most serious civil contingencies risks facing the UK. In a change of approach, the Framework states that the Government will invite external challenge from a wide range of experts as part of the NSRA process. It will also clarify roles and responsibilities for all NSRA risks to ensure they are fully owned and managed.
The National Risk Register remains the publicly available counterpart to the NSRA and contains detailed information for those with contingency planning responsibilities at a national and local level. Community Risk Registers complement the national level register and here, the Government ‘will strengthen the requirements around the production of the CRR so that responders consider community demographics, particularly vulnerable groups.’
Whole society approach
As part of its whole society approach, the Framework recognises the need to understand which groups are vulnerable to local and national risks. By sharing data and making greater uses of analysis and insight, the Government will ‘develop a measurement of socio-economic resilience and vulnerability to key civil contingencies risks, including how civil contingency risks and emergencies impact across communities and vulnerable groups, to guide and inform decision making on risk and resilience.’
A new system of Emergency Alerts will be introduced during 2023. This will allow government organisations and emergency responders to send alerts to every compatible mobile device within a chosen geographical area at very short notice. The alerts can be used in any life threatening situation where the public need to be given life-saving information.
Enhancing the work of Local Resilience Forums
As part of the Framework, the Government will ‘significantly strengthen LRFs’ through changes to leadership, and accountability It is committing to ensure that LRF leaders have resources, capacity and capability to carry out their work. Part of this is a proposal for a full time permanent role of the Chief Resilience Officer for each LRF area who would be accountable to local democratic leaders. There is no detail in the Framework about how this will be funded, although it could come out of the £22 million three year funding settlement for LRFs that started in the 2022/23 financial year. Although there is some discussion about how assurance might work.
The Framework promises to place resilience ‘at the heart of levelling up and wider place making’ and it will be included in regional devolution deals in England where local areas take formal responsibility for ‘building and delivering local resilience’. Where devolution is not in place, Police and Crime Commissioners will have to make resilience a strand of their community safety strategies. The Government will look at the case for making Combined Authorities and Mayoral Combined Authorities Category 1 Responders under the Civil Contingencies Act.
A further change would see the Resilience Standards that apply to responder organisations in England onto a statutory footing with corresponding obligations to state publicly how they are meeting them. The first step is for the Government to carry out an impact assessment to determine the level of burden this may introduce.
The Framework confirms that LRFs and partners will continue to have a central role in planning for and delivery of recovery, working with the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS). ‘As an initial measure, the UK Government will also offer guidance to the local tier on how mental health and psychosocial awareness can be intrinsically factored into recovery work, to support those affected beyond their physical needs.’
Role of voluntary and community sector
There is more on the role of the VCS in the UK’s resilience. The Framework contains a commitment for the Government to ‘deepen and strengthen its relationships with the VCS in England’. Part of this includes £1.5 million funding up to 2025 for the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership in England. This is intended to support and coordinate input from the VCS into emergency preparedness, planning and response.
The UK Resilience Forum is one way in which the VCS can engage with government and partners. The Framework is keen to stress the importance of such engagement so that a diverse range of people and organisations can contribute to the whole of society approach to resilience. The Government will be considering ways ‘to enhance the role of citizens and the VCS as an integrated part of resilience policy making and planning.’ Part of this may include ways to measure the engagement of statutory responders with the VCS.