Fitch will join the department in mid-September, when he will be reunited with former colleague Sue Garrard. Previously a board director at Fishburn Hedges, Garrard joined the DWP six months ago as comms director (PRWeek, 2 February).
Fitch will lead the national and regional media teams, comprising about 40 and 25 people respectively.
‘This is a great opportunity to work at the heart of government,’ he said. ‘The DWP has a massive agenda and it is important that comms helps deliver this agenda.’
Issues on which Fitch will advise include pension reform – specifically proposed personal accounts, plans for which are in the very early stages. Personal accounts offer a pension scheme that requires people to opt out, rather than the current system, which requires workers to opt in.
‘Communicating with hard-to-reach groups such as the vulnerable and the young about why these issues are important will be crucial to the DWP’s work,’ said Fitch.
Other challenges will include getting positive coverage of the Child Support Agency and communicating efforts to get low-paid parents back to work.
The DWP’s previous head of news, Rachel Grant, joined the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the same post in May (PRWeek, 4 May). The DWP took the opportunity to upgrade its head of news post.
Fitch joined FH over three years ago as a consultant. His clients include the West Midlands Authority and he has previously worked with the Department for Transport. Previously, Fitch worked in the London Mayor’s office, leading the transport and environment team as senior press officer.
Garrard previously announced plans to review the DWP’s PR roster in a bid to make it ‘fit for purpose’.