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UK Resilience: Fit for Purpose?


Author: Kathy Settle, Deputy Leader, Independent Review of the Civil Contingencies Act and its Supporting Arrangements

Are current UK resilience arrangements fit for the riskier world we are moving into? This is the question I – and a small team of experienced colleagues – were invited to look at by the National Preparedness Commission and which Cratus has kindly invited me to write about here.

The answer, we concluded, was unfortunately No. The Act and the transformed resilience arrangements it introduced in 2004 were a vital step down the road to building a ‘Resilient Nation.’ They have served the UK well. But, whilst they provide a sound basic framework for emergency preparedness, response and recovery, the pace of development has not been sustained over the past decade. In some important areas, quality has degraded. As a result, UK resilience today has some serious weaknesses.

And this is not just our view. We conducted 130 interviews with 300 people – including the emergency services, NHS, local authorities, utility and transport providers, businesses, voluntary and community groups, academics – who told us the same. Frankly, other countries are doing resilience-building better. The management of organisational resilience in the major corporates we spoke to is better than the management of the ‘organisational resilience’ of the UK.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! In our Report, we cited many examples of local Resilience Partnerships who were demonstrating good practice, particularly in building societal and community resilience using a ‘Whole of Society’ approach, usually led by local government. And we were impressed by some areas who were actively working to try to prevent emergencies happening in the first place – from small scale risk reduction measures to building ‘Resilient Places’ which ‘design resilience in’ to communities, infrastructure and policies.

We came up with 117 recommendations which we have heard through feedback are logical and implementable – we’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve said that “this stuff isn’t rocket science”. Many of our recommendations can be delivered right now, within the current legislative and policy framework. And it’s been inspiring to see the ambition to learn and improve which came through strongly in our interviews translated into a similarly strong desire for action since our Report was published. We’ve had a lot of requests for briefings, advice or fuller support on what Resilience Partnerships can do now to respond to our recommendations.

Some of our proposals will require changes to legislation and policies and that needs Government action. We’re currently waiting for publication of the Government’s Resilience Strategy and hope that it will take on board all the improvements we recommend. If not, we’ll keep arguing – the safety and security of the UK and its people is worth arguing for after all!
The Report and Executive Summary of the Independent Review of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and its Supporting Arrangements can be found here.

Kathy Settle is Director of Aquadulce Ltd, a Senior Associate at the Emergency Planning College and an International Adviser for the Resilience Advisers Network. She can be contacted via email by clicking here.

UK Resilience: Fit for Purpose?