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by the NFCC

Drivers for change

IO8: Retaining employees

This improvement objective is focused on how people are treated once they join a fire and rescue service. References to inclusion, fairness and diversity appear in in many of the documents cited in the Evidence sources. As far back as 1999, the previous fire inspectorate published Equality and Fairness in the fire service. It stated, “We are strongly of the opinion that substantial change is necessary in the management and culture of the service to achieve an environment where equality and fairness can be integrated into its whole operation and organisation.”

The 2008 strategy set out its expectations around understanding and respecting difference, valuing diversity and treating everyone with dignity and respect and not tolerating bullying, harassment, unfair unacceptable behaviour.

The LGA published a number of reports about inclusion and an MOU on equality, diversity, behaviours and organisational culture in the fire and rescue service co-signed by many organisations in the fire sector and beyond. 

The Inclusive Fire Service Group is independently chaired by Professor Linda Dickens. It is unique in that it brings together employer, management and employee interests, comprising employer and employee representation from the National Joint Council and representation from the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Fire Officers Association and the Fire and Rescue Service Association. It has carried out a substantial amount of work, including directly with FRS’ and union representatives, on improving inclusion based upon a number of evidence-based improvement strategies and a determination to see inclusivity embedded in every aspect of the fire and rescue service. That work is continuing. 

The Bain and Thomas reviews also made reference to the need for improvement. Responding to the publication of the Thomas Review, Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said, “A culture shift is needed. Action is needed on career progression, inclusive working practices and recruitment. Progression through the service has to improve”.

The NFCC People Strategy sets out the principles of what it means by equality, diversity and inclusion. “We want people to bring themselves to work without the need to hide their sexuality, mental health state, quirks and individual traits etc. We want to build a representative workforce (gender and race particularly) and support development of underrepresented groups.”

More recently, the new form of inspection through HMICFRS looked at culture too. It found considerable problems despite all the efforts and strategies of the past twenty years or more. One of the three pillars of inspection is focused on people and under that there is a grading for values and culture. The tranche 1 report found that too few of the services had achieved a positive culture. “We graded three services as good at promoting values and culture and one service as outstanding. Nine services require improvement and one service is graded as inadequate. These results show that while it is possible to create a positive culture in fire and rescue services, too few services have achieved this.”