Published 29 March 2023

A renewed ‘call to action’ to improve culture across fire and rescue services

NFCC Logo image

A renewed call to action to improve culture and end misogyny, racism, bullying and harassment across UK fire and rescue services – underpinned by an action plan – has been announced, following the culmination of a two-day National Fire Chiefs Council event on culture and inclusion.

With every UK Fire and Rescue Service represented, there was a unanimous commitment to improve culture and inclusion across fire and rescue services, with the publication of a clear and renewed national action plan within a month.

As Chair of the NFCC, this is my number one commitment.

NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham

This will set out actions, milestones and success measures, meaning the public, staff and wider stakeholders will know how we are going to improve and can hold us to account.

This will include NFCC setting up an independent external advisory panel to provide challenge, support and scrutiny to the NFCC plan.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Nazir Afzal OBE who set out his concerns and reflections following his recent culture review of London Fire Brigade and subsequent conversations with Fire and Rescue officers and staff from other services.

He spoke about the importance of people being able to report incidents safely and confidentially, confident that action would be taken.

Other leaders from across the fire and rescue services and more widely were in attendance including the Home Office, Women in the Fire Service, Asian Fire Service Association, Local Government Association, Fire Brigades Union, Fire & Rescue Services Association, Fire Officers Association, Fire Fighters Charity, HMICFRS and more widely.

NFCC Chair Mark Hardingham said: “Any form of discrimination, bullying or harassment is completely unacceptable in a modern-day fire and rescue service and must not be tolerated. These forms of behaviours need to stop and stop now. All UK fire and rescue services come together this week to renew their focus and commitment to making fire and rescue services open, inclusive and welcoming environments – services that the public and our staff can have every confidence in. As Chair of the NFCC, this is my number one priority.

“The discussions over the past two days have added to those in every fire and rescue service and associated organisations in recent months. Our conference has provided a further and collective step change to increase momentum, commitment and focus to culture change. We have listened and identified key actions to take forward together, learning from other organisations as well as from each other.

“We will publish a new plan within a month of this event, setting out clear actions to improve our culture. This includes a commitment to ensuring every FRS has an independent, confidential reporting line so staff and the public can report concerns with confidence that they will be heard and action will be taken. We will also be establishing an independent external advisory group who can provide check and challenge to ensure NFCC deliver against our commitments.

“I want the public and every member of staff to see and experience a fire and rescue service which values diversity, equality, inclusion, aspiration and fair challenge.  A key theme from the event was absolute agreement and commitment to learning; a commitment to transparency, to tackling poor practises and to celebrating good practises and behaviour; all underpinned by robust policies, processes, standards and inspection.”

NFCC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead, and Cornwall Chief Fire Officer Kathryn Billing said: “The united commitment from everyone in the room came across loud and clear. Eradicating inappropriate behaviours and cultural reform are a priority for fire and rescue services and we need to tackle it. Everyone within all fire and rescue services must see and experience the benefits of being in a safe, trusted and inclusive environment.

“We heard a number of positive examples from fire and rescue services who are creating positive, inclusive environments – as recognised by recent inspection outcomes. We need to learn from them and from other sectors about the work they are doing to improve workplace cultures. Everyone has the right to feel safe, supported and respected at work and we are absolutely committed to delivering this vital change, ensuring the public continue to get the high-quality services they deserve, to keep our communities safe.”