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Being responsible for delivering key parts of the Ministry of Defence Fire and Rescue capability throughout the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is something we’re particularly proud of as it demonstrates our resilience, dedication to partnership, and our genuine understanding of defence requirements.
The Defence Fire & Rescue Project is a critical operations support service that enables the UK’s military to operate appropriately and safeguard our nation: without appropriate fire & rescue cover, critical military flying operations would be significantly impacted. Additionally, our firefighters are also required to protect strategic military assets and defence personnel at multiple locations throughout the UK and beyond.
The delivery of the project coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic - not only was the UK population required to stay at home, but public transport all but ceased operating, making our usual hands-on delivery and face-to-face to transformation untenable almost overnight. The difficulties were further compounded by the fact that our programme and service delivery teams were geographically dispersed and required to work remotely.
Despite the unprecedented issues, we ensured that the Ministry of Defence fire and rescue provision continued to operate as the pandemic reached the UK. Throughout March 2020, hundreds of firefighters continued to attend military bases and stations each day to provide this nationally critical service.
After going through a lengthy procurement process, both the military and Capita were keen to move forward with the transfer and transformation of the service. As one of the Ministry of Defence’s strategic partners, we were committed to achieving the transfer with no decline in service delivery or standards: we’ve provided training for their fire and rescue services since 2019, and we were able to build upon previous relevant experience in military training delivery. Building on this success, we constructed a strategic approach that would meet the MOD’s timelines and quality standards.
Understanding the military ethos, culture and mindset
We put together a team that drew upon military and fire subject matter expertise and was appropriately blended with programme, commercial and service delivery knowhow. Our focus is always to understand and complement the client, not to replicate them, and we respect and understand the Armed Forces environment, the military’s ‘can do’ culture and history of service excellence. As a key service provider, we are committed to achieving that same level of commitment and performance, with a likeminded professional determination to succeed.
We brought decades of relevant experience to the project, building upon lessons learned from our British Army Recruitment (RPP) contract to create a collaborative working environment in which the Ministry of Defence was comfortable that we would succeed, rapidly establishing an overarching ‘esprit de corps’ and building trust.
Supporting everyone involved
The project included the TUPE transfer of over 500 Ministry of Defence firefighters, with over 600 Air Command and Cypriot civilian firefighters also coming under our functional control. Critical to the success of the project throughout the pandemic was our commitment to communication with individuals and workforces involved in the project. To ensure everyone understood and supported the transfer, we implemented regular briefings and formal communications across the entire fire and rescue team. It was important to be open and honest about the challenges we all faced – challenges that nobody had foreseen or experienced before. We were clear that the wellbeing of all those providing the military’s fire and rescue capability was paramount, with all necessary steps taken to help prevent the spread and transmission of Covid-19. In proving this, the workforce committed fully to the project, which undoubtedly ensured a successful delivery, despite the difficulties.
Responding to challenges with innovation
A culture of innovation is at our core, and we constantly analysed the evolving situation, making regular adjustments to ensure the project progressed throughout the pandemic via alternative delivery approaches as required. We introduced technology that enabled remote and dynamic governance and communications, and maintained our clear focus on outputs via alternate pathways. For example, we delivered training commitments safely and in compliance with Capita’s Covid-19 policy by using PPE and making physical alterations to firefighting vehicles. Additionally, the data and insight being developed through our management information solution is already enabling military risk holders to take an early view on investment decisions and fire risk mitigation plans.
Working together collaboratively
Joint transition governance between Capita and the MOD has also been essential in providing complete transparency throughout the mobilisation of the Defence Fire & Rescue Project, allowing much-needed openness regarding progress, risks and issues.
Genuine collaboration enabled us to swiftly introduce the new ways of working necessitated by Covid-19 restrictions and regulations. Together with the Ministry of Defence, we also implemented our tried-and-tested approach to operational readiness and our proven approach to large-scale TUPE transfers to seamlessly deliver the DFRP service.
The outcome is the successful transfer of over 500 firefighters, which took place as planned on 1st April 2020. In addition to this impressive achievement, all service delivery has been maintained, and we continue to meet all KPIs since the service transfer. To date, the first four of our six programme milestones have been delivered to cost, quality and schedule targets, and we are on track in ensuring that milestones five and six will follow this same, hugely effective pathway to success.