One year on from the publication of the National Resilience Framework, Oliver Dowden MP, the Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister with responsibility for risk and resilience presented the Government’s first year implementation update setting out a range of changes made during 2023.
The Deputy Prime Minister will also give the first Annual Statement to Parliament on civil contingencies risk and its performance on resilience.
In a wide ranging update, the Government reinforced the ‘whole of society’ approach to resilience and emphasised key elements of it is implementing its strategy, including the revised National Risk Register which it describes as ‘more transparent than ever.’
National Strategic Risk Assessment
The report confirms that the Government has implemented a new approach to the National Strategic Risk Assessment (not available to the public) where it is now using dynamic risk assessment, leading to more frequent updating of risks. Early next year, the government will launch a systematic expert advisory programme to ensure that the NSRA ‘continues to be robust and well-informed as it transitions to a dynamic process.’ It has established a Catastrophic Impact Programme to review processes and preparedness for the highest impact risks in the NSRA.
Chronic risks are not included in the National Risk Register – this was confirmed at the time of publication with a promise to look at how best to assess risks like climate change.
“The threats they are responding to, as set out in the National Risk Register, are manifold. However, we are making substantial and rapid progress towards building a more resilient United Kingdom.”Oliver Dowden MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister with responsibility for risk and resilience.
In the implementation update, the Government says that it has a new process to identify and assess chronic risks and a list has been drawn up, but the Government states that it won’t say any more until 2024.
The National Situation Centre (SitCen) ‘has continued its multi-phase, multi-year programme to identify and map all crisis-related data across government.’ SitCen is also working on data sharing across government departments to improve situational awareness reporting during major crises and a data strategy to provide population level analysis of vulnerable groups that may be affected by winter-related risks such as power outages and extreme weather events.
The implementation report confirms that the National Exercising Programme has been restarted to test readiness to respond to risks set out in the NSRA, coordinating a wide range of exercising across government. There are also plans to conduct the first annual survey of public perceptions of risk, resilience and preparedness – no date has been provided for when this will happen during 2024.
Stronger Local Resilience Forums
In a recent webinar from Emergency Services Times, Northumberland County Council resilience lead, Helen Hinds talked about the Strengthening Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) Programme and there is more detail on this in the implementation update which lists eight areas involved in a pilot scheme to test out new approaches. These are: West Mercia, Suffolk, Gloucestershire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Northumbria, Thames Valley, and London.
This is all part of a bid by the Government to empower LRFs, ‘broadening their mission to place an increased emphasis on the active building of resilience in their areas and communities, alongside their risk-based planning and operational activity.’ LRFs use the Government’s ResilienceDirect Service and this is being modernised in line with these other changes.
Cross sector resilience planning
The UK Resilience Forum (UKRF) provides a formal forum for cross-sectoral communication and collaboration on risk and emergency preparedness by bringing together national, regional and local government, private and voluntary sectors. This met twice during 2023, chaired by the DPM, ‘providing challenge and insight to the Government on the strategic resilience programme and aligning emergency preparedness activities.’
The Cabinet Office has established the Voluntary and Community Sector Strategic Discussion Forum to bring together senior leaders from the voluntary sector partners of the UKRF and key government departments ‘to strengthen and deepen relationships, and seek a shared understanding of relevant activities that contribute to national resilience.’ The forum, which has met three times this year, provides ‘an additional space for government to meet with sector representatives.’
In November, the government announced the creation of the new and permanent Independent Public Advocate. The report confirms that amendments are being made to the Victims and Prisoners Bill as it returns to Parliament to provide the legal basis for support for survivors of major incidents like the Grenfell Tower fire, ensuring that they receive the help and advice they need, when they need it.
Improving skills and professionalism
The National Resilience Framework included a commitment to establish a UK Resilience Academy by 2025. The Government is testing the seven pillars of the Academy through a ‘stakeholder roadshow.’ The pillars include: emergency planning, crisis management, exercising, personal resilience, strategic prevention, organisational resilience, and citizen preparedness.
Moves to further professionalise resilience at central and local levels saw the launch of both a UK Resilience Learning Needs Analysis and the Crisis Management Excellence Programme through a combination of formal training, informal knowledge sharing, exercising, and a cross-government community of like-minded professionals. This is underpinned by good practice guidance – Lessons Digests – published by the Emergency Planning College.