Although the survey of public sector organisations revealed that risk management is still not applied to strategic decisions

A survey indicated that risk management is now widely embedded within the day to day operations of most public service organisations. There is also strong evidence that more attention is being paid to reporting risk issues and to ensuring that staff and elected members receive appropriate training.

Alarm, the public risk management association, published the results of its triennial risk management survey for 2009. The survey, the fourth of its kind, tracks progress in the use of risk management across the public sector and highlights areas of improvement, where further work is needed.

However, although risk appears to be on the agenda at the highest levels of the organisation, there is less indication that a risk-managed approach is being applied to strategic decision-making, new policy formation, change management or performance management issues.

Compared to the previous survey in 2006, there is no doubt that progress has been made in improving risk management processes. Nonetheless, progress appears to be slower in the areas of partnership risk, and in demonstrating the added value that risk management can bring to delivering corporate objectives.

This survey was undertaken with technical support from CIPFA. Carried out during August and September 2009, the survey was sent to all Alarm member organisations and 95 responses were received.

Respondents were asked to identify the top five risks concerning their organisations. Overall the most commonly cited were:

• Recession / economic downturn

• Partnerships

• Lack of financial resources

• Major incidents / disasters

• Business continuity

For the first time, the survey also sought examples of the types of opportunities that organisations recorded on their risk registers and a number of examples were provided, including:

• Raising the profile of the district / region

• Transforming town centres

• Regeneration

• Building schools for the future

Each responding organisation will receive an individualized report, allowing it to compare its overall risk management performance with others in the sector and identify areas that might benefit from more detailed review.

Dr Lynn Drennan, Chief Executive of Alarm, said: “The survey shows the considerable progress that has been made in embedding risk management within public service organisations since Alarm made its recommendations in the 2006 survey report. Alarm is committed to assisting its members further by facilitating the delivery of best practice guidance and skills training for risk professionals, to help them better support their organisations through the difficult years ahead.”

Paul Dudley, Chairman of Alarm, said: “This survey confirms that risk management is now an integral part of the day to day management of public service organisations, making a positive contribution to service delivery. It is, however, clear that work remains to be done to improve the application of risk management in the area of partnerships and to ensure that a risk-managed approach is applied at strategic decision-making levels. More needs to be done to provide risk managers with access to senior management forums to enable them to support and develop this aspect of the process.”

Julian Mund, Director of Operations - Commercial Services of CIPFA, said: “CIPFA welcomes the publication of the Alarm survey. The findings support our view that risk management is becoming ever more embedded in public sector bodies. There is still however room for improvement, especially when facing the challenges of partnership working.”