2020 felt like a long and difficult year for most of us and the challenges look set to continue into this New Year.
I am very aware that on top of dealing with the many personal challenges the pandemic has brought us, colleagues in every part of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) have sought to maintain and improve the delivery of essential public services for our citizens whilst protecting the safety of our people. Thank you all for your ongoing hard work.
You will know that earlier this week the Executive announced additional restrictions to seek to curb the number of Covid-19 cases that are seriously affecting the health service.
The guidance from the Executive is "Stay at home, work from home if at all possible, otherwise only leave for essential purposes such as education, healthcare needs, to care for others or for outdoor exercise." Details on what the restrictions mean for you are available on www.nidirect.gov.uk/coronavirus.
NICS HR Policy, FAQs and Guidance in the COVID-19 Staff Information hub continue to be regularly reviewed and updated in line with this guidance. This hub can be accessed through your personal devices as well as work computers here.
Our focus in the NICS must continue to be on minimising the risks of Covid-19 transmission whilst, ensuring key public services are delivered safely and without interruption, while at the same time helping to protect and not overburden the health service.
The COVID-19 vaccination programme has the potential to help to transform the current situation but that will take time to ensure the programme is delivered swiftly but safely. We must all help by following the public health advice to help to stop coronavirus spreading by strictly abiding by the lockdown rules. This includes observing social distancing, reducing personal contact, wearing face coverings and remembering hand hygiene. We need to do all we can to keep ourselves and others safe.
I know that many of you, because of the nature of your role and the service you provide, continue to attend your workplace. I want to assure you of our continued commitment to ensuring safe workplaces. Appropriate risk assessments will continue to be undertaken and suitable measures implemented to maintain safe working practices and a safe work environment for you.
For those colleagues who are working from home, while this has many benefits, I don’t underestimate the many challenges this can bring especially when coupled with home schooling and caring responsibilities. Advice and support is available on the Remote Working section of the COVID-19 Staff Information hub.
I encourage all of you, whether in the workplace or at home, to maintain regular contact with your line manager and other colleagues. Please regularly check the ongoing support available on the Health & Wellbeing Section of the COVID-19 Staff Information hub. Any specific individual issues should be raised with your line manager.
Thank you, once again, for your ongoing work and commitment during these unprecedented and extremely challenging times. It is recognised and appreciated by all the senior leaders in the NICS and by the Ministers we serve.
Interim Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service