Message from David Sterling - COVID-19 response

Colleagues

I’m sure like me you’re struggling to come to terms with what’s going on.  Our world has changed utterly in the space of a few short weeks. And it may never be the same again.  A day has seemed like a week, and a week has felt like a month.

I’m fortunate in that none of my family have been struck by the virus. But I haven’t seen my mum, who is in a nursing home, since Mother’s Day.  She will be 96 on Friday and I won’t be able to celebrate with her. Indeed, I don’t really know when I’ll see her again.

Another member of my family is in 12 weeks’ self-isolation.

There is nothing unique on this, we are all having to deal with things we could never have imagined just a few short weeks ago. 

In our jobs as civil servants our daily life has been turned upside down. Many of you are having to self-isolate, many of you are working from home, and many of you are still in offices providing front-line services to people and businesses. 

Our jobs have never been more important.  We have seen a tenfold increase in the number of people seeking some form of welfare support.  In record time we have had to put in place a range of measures to support struggling businesses and to keep supply chains going.  This week we will be starting to provide food, medicines and psychological support directly to tens of thousands of the most vulnerable in society.

You have achieved minor miracles in doing all this.  We have worked at pace, using technology in imaginative and innovative ways, streamlining processes and working collaboratively across boundaries across and outside the NICS. 

All Departments are contributing and I want to thank you all for your devotion, your dedication and your exceptional commitment to public service. 

It is always a little unfair at times like this to single out particular areas, but in this case a word of praise is due to our colleagues in the Department of Health who have been at the front line of the battle against Coronavirus for many weeks now.  We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

I also want to acknowledge the fantastic work being done by our front line staff in DfC who are working tirelessly to ensure those in most need are getting support from government.  You have gone well beyond the normal call of duty, but then I would have expected nothing less.

There will be learning from this: we are working in a much more agile way, we are making better use of technology and we are being less hierarchical.  These are good things and when this is over, as it surely will be, we cannot afford to go back to old ways.

We could all be forgiven for being overawed by the challenge.  We are all tired and we are all fearful.

For those of us who are leaders, and that is most of us, we need to be calm and not look too far ahead.  I personally find it is easiest to take one day at a time and keep a sense of perspective. 

It may not seem it, but we will come through this and some good will come from the crisis. 

For now though, let’s look after ourselves and each other, never forgetting that everyone who can must stay at home, support our Health Service and help save lives.

Thank you

DAVID STERLING

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