Equality of Access to Services and Employment for People from Black Communities

Introduction

As a public service focused on providing excellent service, we are committed to ensuring equality of access to our services for every person, including those in temporary residence or transit through the County.

This paper is one of a suite of documents used as part of our Community Integrated Risk Management planning process. This paper focuses on aspects of equality relating to Black people and communities.

Several groups have been identified as potentially being at greater risk of fire or are potentially not accessing services such as Safe and Well visits. This paper sets out challenges to equal access, which require focus and additional resources to evaluate further whether this is the case.

In the public consultation, we will ask people in our communities to work with us to understand further any issues from their perspectives and how these might be addressed. We also want to work in partnership to re-design services or access pathways where needed.

The issues outlined in this document also underline how more engagement with communities for access to services will support us to become a more attractive employer. Improved access to the Service will support us to attract a more diverse staff group, and employing a more diverse staff group will support improved access to and provision of Fire and Rescue Services.

What Equality of Access means?

We are committed to providing equality of access to all our services. This includes actively seeking to engage people who may be unaware or choosing not to access services from us and other public sector providers.

Our approach is designed to ensure equality of access irrespective of age; gender (including gender reassignment and gender identity); race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin); being married or in a civil partnership; being pregnant or on maternity leave; disability; religion or belief (including no-belief); sex or sexual orientation; caring responsibilities; socio-economic class; and whether such an identity is actual or perceived or whether this is by association with persons from any of these equality strands.

We know through our fire investigation and operational assurance processes that some people are more likely to have a fire, including those who are living with Dementia, mobility issues, and mental health issues. There are also communities and individuals who may not be shown as being at higher risk of a fire, but who may not be accessing our services, such as safe and well visits or reporting fires. Barriers may include language, perceived prejudice and other societal factors/historical discrimination.

We need to work to reduce fire risk and other life risks across all the people, and recognise that we will need to develop different approaches to ensuring equality of access for different communities. This includes working with the people and communities affected to understand how we need to adapt our messaging and services to ensure equality of access.

Through our approach to equality of access, we will work to:

  • Identify all the communities and customers that make up the fire and Rescue Service area;
  • Identify how we can improve access to and the provision of the full range of services provided by the Fire and Rescue Service, as well as access to employment opportunities for all the individuals and communities we serve;
  • Learn from and enhance good practice identified through equality monitoring;
  • Mitigate any adverse impact of our services and employment processes identified through equality monitoring;
  • Eliminate any unlawful discrimination identified through equality monitoring;
  • Promote good community relations;
  • Use appropriate engagement techniques including social marketing to inform and focus on behaviours to help customers adopt safer ways of living.

Data, academic evidence and case studies have informed our people’s impact assessments. We now want to work with black people and communities, including with Black-led charities, community groups and faith groups, to refine our understanding of the issues and how we can best address them.

Why we are focusing on Equal Access to services and employment opportunities for Black people and communities

It is widely accepted that many Black people face daily challenges of a sort not usually experienced by White members of their communities, and indeed infrequently by other ethnic groups in society.

Good work has been carried out for some time in improving our understanding of how to meet the needs of different communities, but we need to go further. Through work with charities, faith groups and other people, we can build access to ensure we have a consistent, excellent service.

We recognise a hopeful emergence across all organisations to deliver on the imperative of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the horrific death of George Floyd in 2020, and we are making our commitment as a sector to ensuring equality and equal access.

We are refreshing our commitment to anti-racism and equality of access as part of our next five-year customer safety strategy.

The use of the word British could be perceived as alienating to non ‘British’. There are many people living in the UK who are Black but not British. Have used the term Black people throughout the document.

Evidence relating to risks and access to Fire and Rescue Services for Black people and communities

The evidence presented below is drawn from many sources and seeks to highlight the different risks and impacts for Black people and communities.

We want to reference here the published report about the pros and cons of granular data. This report highlights the need to be careful of what data is telling us, for instance, different aggregated ethnic groups mask substantial differences in outcomes between their constituent detailed groups. With this in mind, we will exercise caution in extracting findings and in how we design the grassroots engagement needed.

The Government’s 2017 Racial Disparity Audit identified many positives about Black communities, but here we are highlighting the negative aspects of life for Black people as we are trying to examine what might affect the risk of fire and developing the case to use additional resources to work with black people and communities.

The factors presented below set out the case for our further commitment to getting informative data and evidence, recognising the reality of lived experience and needs assessment. At the heart of this work is a pledge to ensure we are tackling racism and discrimination in our workplace and society.

Who do we mean by Black people and communities?

We recognise that a person’s ethnicity is self-defined, and this is the principle on which our equalities work is founded. We also recognise that the use of terminology relating to ethnicity has changed over time, as has what is meaningful and acceptable to individuals and communities. For the purposes of our work on Equality of Access, the term ‘Black people and communities’ refers to anyone who chooses to define themselves as Black (including mixed heritage).

Where possible, as recommended by the government’s Race Disparity Unit, we have undertaken granular research to understand the specific differences within Black communities in terms of geography, nationality and culture. However, much research uses umbrella terms such as ‘BAME’, (Black and Minority Ethnic) others use ‘Black’ and other name formats and some research elements are self-defined.

Statistics for Black people and communities in the UK

The most recent census for which statistics are available was in 2011. This recorded that of the total population of 56.1 million in England and Wales, 86.0% of the population was White. People from Asian ethnic groups made up the second-largest percentage of the population (at 7.5%), followed by Black ethnic groups (at 3.3%), Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups (at 2.2%) and Other ethnic groups (at 1.0%). The 2021 census will refresh this data.

However, it is also the case that ethnicity varies substantially by area – for example, 40% of the population of London identifies as coming from a Black, Asian or Minority ethnic background. This difference means that different geographical locations will need to take different approaches to meeting the access and employment needs of their local populations.

Historic discrimination

There has been a long history of discrimination and racial disparity, from the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993, which led to a Public Inquiry where Sir William Macpherson found the Metropolitan Police Service to be institutionally racist, through the immigration scandal surrounding the Windrush generation to the impact of Covid-19 on Black people. These highlight the importance of all public bodies working with black people and communities to review and address barriers that may prevent people from accessing their services, disparities in their services and employment practices.

Socio-economic factors as a contributor to risk and lack of access

There is evidence that the risk of fires is related to socio-economic factors. Black people can be subject to a range of interlinked factors that can contribute to social and economic deprivation, including higher rates of unemployment, experience of hate crime and racism, the impact of structural inequalities and poor mental health.

The evidence presented here is an amalgam of work carried out by many organisations, which suggests some Black people may be at more risk of fire because of their prevailing social or economic history and current discrimination.

A report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2018 set out the interrelationship of factors and their negative impact:

Racism and racial discrimination is one of many factors which can have a significant, negative impact on a person’s life chances and mental health.

We are particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact on people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic communities, notably those of Black African and Caribbean heritage. Racism is pervasive and can manifest in several often overlapping forms (including personal, cultural, structural and institutional racism).

Like other types of discrimination, it can lead to a profound feeling of pain, harm and humiliation among members of the target group, often leading to despair and exclusion.

It’s worth noting here, for instance, the differences within the Black group in education outcomes (and thus the need for more granular data). Black African children do quite well at school – about the same, or better than White British children: see GCSE results here, for example: GCSE results (Attainment 8) – GOV.UK Ethnicity facts and figures (ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk) and exclusion rates are about the same. However, Black Caribbean children have significantly worse education outcomes (than Black African or White British children). For Permanent exclusions – GOV.UK Ethnicity facts and figures (ethnicity-factsfigures.service.gov.uk) the rate for Black Caribbean pupils was one of the highest (as was Mixed White/Black Caribbean pupils).

In the UK, there are persistent and wide-ranging inequalities for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, increasing their likelihood of being disadvantaged across all aspects of society compared to those from other backgrounds.

As the Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted, an individual from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background is more likely to experience poverty, to have poorer educational outcomes, to be unemployed, and to come in contact with the criminal justice system.

These, in turn, are risk factors for developing a mental illness. These individuals are also less likely to receive the care and support when they need it.

We need to understand this more in the FRS sector in order to listen and work with Black communities and other agencies on services which are bespoke and work – we can only do this in partnership with black people and communities.

The unemployment rate for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people ran at 8%, whilst for White, the level was 4.6%.

Ethnicity-based hate crime is well documented – the Home Office reported 76,000 cases in 2020.

Mental health and fire risk

There is some evidence that poor mental and / or physical health is linked to a higher fire risk. The mental health of people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic communities is important because some people from these communities’ face individual and societal challenges that can affect their access to healthcare and overall mental and physical health.

In addition to ensuring access and provision of services to these individuals, we also hope to contribute to people seeking our services, which enhances signalling to other services.

Mental health statistics for Black / African / Caribbean / Black people:

  • The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) found that Black men were more likely than their White counterparts to experience a psychotic disorder in the last year.
  • As a result of higher rates of mental illness, people from Black communities are more likely than average to encounter mental health services.
  • The Count Me in Census, which collects information on inpatient care, found higher than average admission and detention rates for people identifying as having Black heritage in every year since 2006 to 2010.
  • Black men were reported to have the highest rates of drug use and drug dependency than other groups.
  • Whilst the White Caucasian population experienced the highest rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide rates are higher among young men of Black African, Black Caribbean origin, and among middle-aged Black African, Black Caribbean and South Asian women than among their White counterparts.

These statistics have implications for the Fire and Rescue Service, both as a service provider and as an employer.

Relationship between a sense of ‘belonging’ and access to services

The Government’s 2017 Racial Disparity Audit found that 81% of Black Britons said they “belong to Britain”, despite these challenges (only 4% less than White Britons). It is notable in our equality of access cases for Roma, Gypsy and Travellers and some minority white groups that they express a sense of not belonging. Feeling you belong is an issue we want to explore more, as it raises a question about whether feelings of belonging enhance seeking access to public services.

Impact of housing on risk of fire

Homeownership amongst Black and Bangladeshi groups was significantly less, regardless of age, geography, income and socio-economic groups, than any other grouping.

The English Housing Survey 2018-19 (EHS), found overcrowding is more common for renters and is more common in ethnic minority households compared to White households with BAME families twice as likely to be severely overcrowded.

Private rented homes were also more likely to be damp, less likely to have at least one working smoke alarm and were more likely to contain hazards such as infestations and electrical dangers that pose a risk to life.

The Home Office document ‘Focus on trends in fires and fire related fatalities’ indicated that there are also a number of factors which could have had an upwards pressure on the number of fires and fire-related fatalities.

For a number of these there is little data and therefore clear conclusions cannot be drawn; however, these factors remain risk factors to the overall downwards trend of fires and fire-related fatalities and Fire and Rescue Services have commented on the risk of overcrowding in homes and fires and there has been an increase in the proportion of socially rented households which are overcrowded.

For example, the board leading the Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower has been told “not to ignore the impact of poverty and race on the tragedy”.

Some 85% of the 67 permanent residents of Grenfell who died in the fire were from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds. They included 32 people from the Middle East and North Africa, nine from East Africa and seven who were White or Irish. There were also five from West Africa, five from Bangladesh or with Bangladeshi heritage, three from the Caribbean, one from the Philippines, one resident from Columbia and one person with unidentified BAME heritage.

At the Local Government Associate conference in 2020, Andy Roe, the Commissioner of London Fire Brigade raised this issue in his keynote speech, setting out the need to talk to different communities about their lived experiences and recognise the role of deprivation in fire.

Risk of fire injuries for Black People

Research undertaken in the Greater Manchester area between 2010 and 2015 considered ethnicity recorded against fire injuries. “From the cross-tabulation analysis of the numbers of different accidental dwelling fire types by community and cultural groups over the period 2010 to 2015 within the Greater Manchester area, it appeared that: Overall, the Black or Black British ethnic group had the highest likelihood of fire injury risk, followed by the White British / Irish / Other and Other Ethnic groups”.

Although statistically at lower risk of smoking and alcohol related fire injuries, the study found black people were at a heightened risk of injury from cooking related fire injuries, nearly double the injury rate of the next nearest group, White/Irish.

In his post Grenfell Tower research, Chris Hastie, a PH student found qualitative evidence to support this view. For instance, this observation from a man of recent West African origin:

I spent time talking to people in a diverse, disadvantaged part of the West Midlands. Among those, I spoke to was Peter, a Tanzanian man. I had already established that areas with high African populations tended to have high rates of fire. Peter had no doubt as to why this was. His community, he told me, are not used to cooking on gas and do a lot of deep frying. Information like this is of great value to those interested in improving fire safety. But it is information that will be lost to fire safety officers and local councils alike, if they don’t engage with the diverse communities that they serve.

It is worth noting that a similar issue experienced by White people – chip pan fires – has been significantly reduced through sustained prevention effort, and arguably the invention of the oven chip we have seen significant reduction. This implies that injuries for Black people could potentially be reduced with well-designed prevention activity.

The grouping defining themselves as Black are a significant and incredibly rich and diverse grouping. Whilst the report appears marginally to demonstrate that Black people are at a heightened risk of fire related injury in its statistical study. It goes on to reference a number of research papers that can help refine thinking and therefore action plans to help target activity towards possibly vulnerable groups. (Please note lots of hesitation here in coming to conclusions as this paper is a starter to working with Black people to further understand if and what risks are present).

Further evidence is presented here which supports the case for further enquiry into risks:

Corcoran et al. (2011), Chhetri et al. (2010) and Asgary et al. (2010) identified a relationship between ethnicity and fire risk, however, ethnicity itself did not appear to be a significant predictor variable. Corcoran et al. (2011) also identified that when considering ethnicity in studies of fire risk, it is important to appreciate whether ‘ethnicity’ is defined in terms of ‘race’ or ‘country of origin’.

Clark et al. (2014) commented upon the different levels of fire risks between different communities and areas, and discussed the socio-economic and cultural conditions and contexts such as fire-risk knowledge and practices including socio-cultural norms, routines and practices relating to smoking, cooking and candle use that could affect fire risk.

The report goes on to consider differences in risk appetite, economic position, cultural and religious observances within the large group described as Black. The researchers found significant evidence to suggest that recently arrived migrants were in a very different (high risk) position to those whose families had lived in the UK for a number of generations (Though of course, in a post Windrush age older Black people might well feel less engaged with ‘agents of the state’ such as the FRS).

In our action plans, we need to listen to Black people and find out if this experience is wider.

Road Traffic Collisions requiring response by Fire and Rescue Services

Evidence relating to ethnicity is very difficult to find, since Road Traffic Collision statistics traditionally focus on factors such as speed, weather, vehicle repair, location and driver impairment.

However, Transport for London made the following statement in a report on road safety in the capital:

BAME individuals are at higher risk of death or serious injury than non-BAME individuals across every mode except bus. The largest difference is for motorcyclists, where BAME individuals experience four times as many KSI casualties per billion kilometres as non-BAME individuals. BAME car occupants and cyclists are at approximately twice the risk of their non-BAME counterparts.

The term ‘BAME’ is a very wide grouping, covering all ethnicities except White/Irish, so it would be difficult to assume that Black individuals were at particularly high risk. We are cautious of extrapolating too much from this research but see it as identifying an area for further research. We will be creating an action seeking greater granular data (local and national level) arising from this work.

Furthermore, as vehicle repair issues and poor driving skills are a causal factor in a number of Road Traffic Collisions, it is reasonable to assume that the higher risk for people from BAME communities may be linked to limited funds and, in some cases, recent arrival in the UK and familiarity with UK traffic conditions. As an example, current intelligence through our existing involvement with Ashford Borough Council’s Refugee Resettlement Co-ordinator, highlights issues around driving licences, which can be used in the UK for one year without having passed the UK theory test. Whilst some manage (and are supported and actively encouraged by keyworkers) to pass the UK Driving Test within one year of arrival, language is a significant barrier to completion of the UK theory test. We are not sure if this is the same for others coming to the UK.

That said, the view that some socio-economic and cultural groups within the broad descriptor of Black people could be at a higher risk than the average within the UK could apply to members of any ethnic grouping who find themselves socially and financially disadvantaged, particularly when that is coupled with having newly arrived in the UK

Employment statistics for Black people in Fire and Rescue Service

Fire Rescue Services are committed to employing a workforce that reflects the changing role of the Services and the diversity of the area they are serving.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection report in 2019, states that 3.1% of the Service’s firefighters were drawn from BAME backgrounds.

The recent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity report: (Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report – March 2021 (publishing.service.gov.uk). Page 76) described how it is important to get better data on the ethnic diversity of public sector workforces. In this case, specifically about teachers, noting: “The Commission would also welcome similar standards being applied to other public sector workforces; the Race Disparity Unit should coordinate such activity, building on previous work in this area, and reporting regularly on progress.” This might be an area where we would like to join up in the future with the Race Disparity Unit.

The following statistics apply to the UK Fire & Rescue Service as a whole (where ethnicity is known):

  • Overall, the percentage of Fire and Rescue Service staff (including support staff) from Asian, Black, Mixed and Other backgrounds went up from 4.0% in 2011 to 5.0% in 2019.
  • Although the number of Black people working in the sector dropped in absolute terms because there was a significant reduction in numbers of firefighters, there was a small increase in Black people as a percentage of the workforce, from 1.49% in 2011 to 1.63% in 2019.
  • For comparison, the number of Black people of working age in the UK was 3.6% of the working age population in England, compared with 0.7% of Wales at the time of the 2011 Census.
  • Although the numbers are small, it is worth noting that the number of staff who identified themselves as being from a mixed heritage was the only group to increase across all staff. In terms of firefighters, this group also had the largest increase in numbers, increasing by nearly 50%.

The statistics specific to firefighters are:

  • From 2011 to 2019, the total number of firefighters went down from around 43,000 to around 35,000
  • In 2019, 95.7% of firefighters in England were White (out of those whose ethnicity was known)
  • There was a decrease in the number of firefighters in every ethnic group over this period, except the Mixed and Asian ethnic groups.
  • The number of Black firefighters dropped from 519 in 2011 to 422 in 2020, although proportionately, as the sector has reduced in size, this provided a tiny increase from 1.31% of firefighters in 2011 to 1.33% of firefighters in 2020.
  • Firefighters from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds make up 4.3% of the UK Fire and Rescue Service, compared to approximately 14% of the UK population as a whole.

From this, it is reasonable to surmise that the Fire and Rescue Service needs to do more to raise its profile initially as a potential employer and then as an employer of choice. The two are linked, and more engagement with Black communities for access to services may underline us as an attractive employer.

The number of Black people working in fire and rescue services fell from 742 people in 2011, to 653 people in 2020.

 572 staff identified as mixed heritage in 2011 compared to 724 staff in 2020.

473 firefighters identified as mixed heritage in 2011 compared to 624 in 2020.

Conclusions

From the research highlighted in this paper and many other sources, the risk from fire incidents, whilst possibly marginally higher for Black people, is more likely to relate to socio-economic factors and cultural practices than ethnicity itself.

This conclusion is equally applicable to the Service in discharging its statutory duties under the Fire & Rescue Services Act 2004 to deliver community safety, business safety advice and response services as well as its activities as a regulator under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2004.

It is also apparent that there are significant data gaps which hinder organisations such as Fire and Rescue Services in understanding the needs of the different people and communities it serves. Intelligence around language, culture and location will help drive targeted information campaigns, engagement activity and inform recruitment practices such as positive action. Therefore, significant work needs to be done around incident and employment related ethnicity and cultural background data. Without this as we go forward, the Service’s undoubtedly well-intentioned efforts will be severely hampered without the direction that informed use of data would give.

Fire and Rescue Services also need to use a range of activities and approaches to ensure equality of access in terms of its messaging, provision of services and employment.

Working with individuals, representatives, groups and organisation’s from Black communities, as well as in partnership with other statutory bodies such as County Councils, District Councils and Police is essential to successfully meeting the needs of Black people and communities.

Customer segmentation across the Black communities to improve equality of access to employment and services

Black people experiencing hate crime

What types of incident can be a racist or religious hate crime?

Racist or religious hate incidents can take many forms, including:

  • Verbal and physical abuse.
  • Bullying.
  • Threatening behaviour.
  • Online abuse.
  • Damage to property.

It can be a one-off incident or part of an ongoing campaign of harassment or intimidation. Hate incidents are not only carried out by strangers. It could be carried out by a carer, a neighbour, a teacher or someone you consider a friend. The majority of hate crime offences recorded by Police Forces in England and Wales were racial – 78,991 – which increased by 11% in the past year. (The Home Office reported over 76,000 cases in 2020, alone).

The steady rise in recent years is partly because of improvements in crime recording, but there were spikes after events such as the referendum on Britain’s EU membership and terrorist attacks in 2017. Part of the increase over the last year may reflect “a real rise” in hate crimes, the Home Office said.

Actions

Working with police to ensure our offer is made to people who report racially motivated hate crimes.

Individuals may see Fire in the same category as the police is an organisation that has not been demonstrative of support in the past and so not seek support whether they are experiencing domestic violence or external threats. Many will also be unaware of our services re: arson threats. Targeting campaigns through social media and specific charities and NHS services may help us increase the rate of take up of services, alongside our activity to increase disclosure for records and monitoring.

We need to recognise the potential for hate crime in the workplace and ensure messaging of intolerance of harassment and bullying is in place, training is in place and measures to prevent harassment and hate crime are clear.

People currently employed. How we ensure fair and accessible internal HR processes, e.g., succession planning, training, promotion

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published statistics for all organisations in the UK in August 2020 stating that:

  • Black people occupy 1.5% of leadership positions in the UK
  • 69% of Black people surveyed feel they have less opportunity to succeed than White people
  • 70% of Minority ethnic workers state they have been harassed in the workplace
  • Britain’s BAME workers collectively earn £3.2bn less than their White counterparts every year.

These and other sources of information underline the need for actions in our workplace to provide an equal platform for success.

The Importance of Data

We all need to undertake monitoring of our workers by ethnicity. Monitoring is a process of collecting, analysing and evaluating information. Information can be collected in several ways, including questionnaires, surveys, consultation and feedback.

The final part of the monitoring process is to act on the findings of the data analysis in order to overcome identified inequalities. This final point is very important as to fail to act on the findings would reduce monitoring to a tick-box exercise of little value.

An employer cannot claim to be committed to tackling racism in the workplace without effective monitoring. First steps include an equal opportunities policy and monitoring of equality of opportunity. If an organisation does not carry out monitoring, there is no mechanism to measure the effectiveness of equal opportunities policies and initiatives, however extensive they may be. Monitoring also makes good business sense.

As part of an effective management information system, it will enable managers to manage based on a realistic assessment of the organisation, rather than on gut feeling. The purpose of monitoring people’s ethnic background is to:

  • Identify possible inequalities.
  • Investigate the underlying causes of inequalities.
  • Remove any unfairness.

Actions

Ongoing learning about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and skills development. Commitment at senior level to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is necessary as it requires years to embed the culture needed to be truly inclusive.

Internal monitoring of statistics against all workforce systems such as turnover, grievances, sickness and exit data to search for any issues which indicate discrimination.

Ensuring barriers to internal promotion such as confidence are discussed and are transparent to all. Monitoring of internal succession and promotion decisions

Training which supports recognition that applicants for jobs internally and externally bring their own cultural understanding and behaviours to interviews, so careful questioning is important along with other ways to triangulate information.

Continuous dialogue and learning support for managers focused on inclusion.

Training for managers in how to manage the performance of diverse teams. There is evidence that some managers can be frightened to tackle performance issues and provide feedback to Black, Asian and Minority ethnic staff as they are worried, they will be accused of racism. This in turn can then lead to staff finding themselves with less performance support than is needed, and it becomes a vicious circle.

This is an important conversation in any Fire and Rescue Service as to how everyone understands that performance needs to be managed, and the skills needed to do it well and be inclusive.

Older Black people who have migrated into the UK and potentially still feel services are inaccessible to them

We have no direct evidence here of this issue in Fire, but we can make a reasonable case based on the experiences and statistics detailed in this document that we need to ensure we target older Black people and ensure they are welcomed to our fire prevention services. We need to build evidence from lived experiences and find out if there are access issues. We need to create an action for greater granular data (local and national level) for our recruitment and workforce, and also in working with the people we serve.

Evidence from the article titled ‘Neglect of older ethnic minority people in UK research and policy‘, published in the British Medical Journal (Feb, 2020), the UK has not collected any survey data specifically on older Minority ethnic populations, but data from 2004, the last year when the Health Survey for England oversampled Minority ethnic people (over 15 years ago), found that the proportion of people aged 61-70 reporting fair or bad health was 34% for White English people, 86% for Bangladeshi people, 69% for Pakistani people, 63% for Indian people, and 67% for Black Caribbean people. This data shows that the health of White English people aged 61-70 is equivalent to that for Black Caribbean people in their late 40s or early 50s, Indian people in their early 40. We hope to see better data emerging from the 2021 census and subsequent updates from agencies.

The Societal Care Institute for Excellence reports that Minority ethnic communities may have higher rates of poor health than the host community. Poorer people and those less well-placed to access health and social care will be more vulnerable.

Key research findings from the Social Care institute of excellence include:

  • The mental health needs of older people from Black and Minority ethnic communities have been particularly neglected.
  • There are small but significant differences in the incidence of health problems among different ethnic groups.
  • There are lower levels of awareness of problems such as depression and dementia within some elements of the Black and Minority ethnic communities.
  • Older people and their families from Black and Minority ethnic communities have problems accessing help from services.
  • There is insufficient evidence to date on whether integrated or separate services are more effective, but there is a need for more culturally appropriate and sensitive services.

We are drawing a hypothesis from this evidence to suggest that there are similar issues in accessing our prevention services.

Actions

Working with specific charities and sourcing other focused third sector partners to give us access for the promotion of services. There is evidence of more religious belief and attendance at religious venues in some Black communities, so we seek to work with them to get messages across.

Seeking access to older Black people to talk to them about their experiences and how we can consider their needs in designing services and any issues during a response to an incident.

Targeting safe and well campaigns for older Black people.

Training of staff is important, so we avoid the assumption that ‘older people’ are one homogenous group so that we are sensitive to protected characteristics. One of the discriminatory factors for many older people is that they lose identity and are labelled primarily as an older person.

Housing and its impact for fire

In 2016 to 2018, 17% of households (3.9 million) in England lived in social housing (they rented their home from a local authority or housing association).

Black African (44%), Mixed White and Black African (41%) and Black Caribbean (40%) households were most likely to rent social housing out of all ethnic groups (Indian (7%), Chinese (10%), and White Other (11%) households had lower rates of renting social housing).

Across most income bands, White households were less likely to rent social housing than households from all other ethnic groups combined. In London, White households were less likely to rent social housing than households from all other ethnic groups combined:

  • In 2017/18, 27.9% of new social housing lettings were given to vulnerable households with a priority need (counting those where ethnicity was known).
  • For all ethnic groups except the Bangladeshi group, homelessness was the most common reason why vulnerable households were given priority for social housing.

Actions

Campaigns focused on encouraging Black people to seek fire prevention services if they are in social housing – we have no specific evidence but think we need to test whether there is more reluctance to seek or a belief that our services don’t apply if it’s not an owned home.

We are doing separate work on homelessness.

Protection teams working with other agencies focusing on landlords and their need to provide safe housing and where possible encouraging tenants to seek Home Fire safety visits as some of our focus is on changing the fire risk behaviour of the tenants.

We need to further analyse data reported from fires/rtc etc. and whether data can be improved, perhaps through post incident work or through interagency data sharing. This would include seeking better data on Burns scalds which we come across but also those known to the NHS but not fire. We know that many people don’t call us out for small fires or for attendance to burns/scalds, so some of the picture is unclear to us about whether there are more people from certain communities who do not report.

Attracting Black people to the FRS as a career accompanied with need to change the image of the UK FRS away from white male into a culturally diverse mix

  • In 2019, 95.7% of firefighters in England were White (out of those whose ethnicity was known).
  • For comparison, 85.1% of working age people in England (aged 16 to 64 years) were White at the time of the 2011 Census.
  • From 2011 to 2019, the total number of firefighters went down from around 43,000 to around 35,000.
  • There was a decrease in the number of firefighters in every ethnic group except the Mixed and Asian ethnic groups.
  • Overall, the percentage of Fire and Rescue Services staff (including support staff) from Asian, Black, Mixed and Other backgrounds went up from 4.0% in 2011 to 5.0% in 2019.
  • The representative percentages of staff employed by Fire and Rescue Services are less than half of the representative working age populations of 2011, which we know, has increased in the last 10 years.
  • The business case for diversity is well documented, a lack of representation directly impacts the sectors’ ability to engage with black people and communities and, potentially, by default, accessibility to the services they provide.
  • There is an opportunity to explore the reasons for the increase in mixed heritage representation to increase organisational diversity.

Actions

Recruitment and selection checklist

  • Does the composition of the workforce reflect the local population? (Information on the local population is available from the local authority and the Census – Every Fire and Rescue should report that, and it should be monitored by the NFCC).
  • If not, is any monitoring being carried out to determine if Minority ethnics are applying for job vacancies?
  • Where are job vacancies advertised? AFSA research tells us 60% of applicants come from word of mouth, and we need to think about how we tackle this issue, so there is access to all.
  • Are any steps taken to ensure job advertisements are targeted at underrepresented groups?
  • Is a standard application form used for all recruitment?
  • Are job descriptions and selection criteria made clear to all potential applicants?
  • What training is provided to staff involved in the recruitment and selection process? Does this include training on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and its application to recruitment?
  • Are actions taken to ensure the selection process itself is fair and equitable and bias is minimised?
  • What positive action is being undertaken to attract Black people to the Fire and Rescue Services?

Positive action

The following provides some examples of steps that can be taken as positive action which falls under section 158 Equality Act:

  • Targeted advertising for jobs. This can be using specific, but not exclusive, media to advertise jobs.
  • Using positive action statements in recruitment adverts, for example, stating that the employer welcomes applications from a particular group.
  • Offering pre-application training where this meets a need. For example, CV development and leadership training skills.
  • Holding open days.
  • Participation in targeted career fairs.
  • Internships.
  • Reserving places for protected groups on training courses prior to interviews and shortlisting.
  • Providing support for those with protected characteristics who have failed stages of the recruitment process (as opposed to training, which is part of the recruitment process).
  • Establishing and supporting staff networks.
  • Mentoring and sponsorship programmes.
  • Providing opportunities for underrepresented groups to attend national events.
  • Secondments for those with protected characteristics.
  • Development courses for those with protected characteristics focused on career progression.
  • Graduate entry schemes.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualising a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by several discriminations and disadvantages. It considers people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face.

For example; Racism within LGBT Communities. A report from the Equality Network reported that some BAME LGBT people “are put in a position where they feel that they do not belong to either the LGBT community or the Minority ethnic community and are forced to express one part of their identity at the expense of the other.”

The needs and experiences of BAME LGBT people have historically been hidden within separate and often generalised approaches to BAME communities and LGBT communities. However, available evidence shows notable disparities between BAME LGBT people and White LGBT people.

Only 56% of BAME trans people and 76% of BAME cis LGB people had a paid job in the last 12 months, compared to 80% of White LGBT people across the UK population in areas such as employment, safety, and mental health. A few examples of such disparities are included below:

  • BAME LGBT people were more likely to have experienced a negative / inappropriate incident (e.g., verbal insults, violence, and coercive behaviour) inside the home in the last 12 months.
  • Only 47% of BAME trans people said they hadn’t experienced any negative or inappropriate incidents, compared to 66% of BAME cis LGB people, and 71% of white LGBT respondents.
  • 19% of BAME LGBT people have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBT, compared to 13% of LGBT people overall.

Actions

Being conscious of intersectionality is important and when we are directing the marketing of our fire prevention services, we need to recognise different approaches for different audiences.

Similarly, in terms of evidence of hate crime/arson threat, consideration to the intersectionality of ethnicity and sexual orientation should be explored.

Work with the charity, Opening Doors London and other third-party organisations to understand the intersectionality impact for LGBT individuals.

Working with diverse business to get equality of access

Engaging with Diverse Businesses Rapid Evidence Review 2018 states that:

  • Approximately 5% of Small/medium enterprises within the UK are led by an owner, partner or director from a Black and Minority ethnic background. The proportion of Black and Minority ethnic led businesses is higher in areas such as London and the Midlands when compared to the national average.
  • Black and Minority ethnic led businesses are more likely to be concentrated in specific industry sectors, such as distribution, hotels and restaurants when compared to the wider Small/Medium enterprise population.
  • The proportion of migrants establishing their own business is increasing, with migrants to the UK more likely to set up their own business compared to their UK born counterparts.
  • There are many ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which can result in individuals from Black and Minority ethnic communities starting their own business. Many Black and Minority ethnic business owners started their own business to gain status in their community, to pursue an interest or to make more money. However, many commented that they faced discrimination in the workplace, which meant they were unable to gain promotion or employment proportionate to their skills and experience.
  • While many Black and Minority ethnic led businesses had awareness of some regulations affecting them, many felt there were barriers which prevented them from fully complying. Their barriers include not being aware of where to access information, how to access support (or trusting support available), language and cultural barriers and negative perception towards Local Authority officers based on previous experiences.
  • Some Black and Minority ethnic led businesses found compliance with regulations to be burdensome and potentially costly. In addition, it was felt that there is a lot of duplication as different regulatory bodies ask for the same or similar information.
  • While Black and Minority ethnic led businesses often do not feel they are treated differently by inspectors to non-Black and Minority ethnic businesses, they feel that regulatory bodies should be more sensitive towards cultural factors, for example, avoiding inspections during religious holidays or festivals and being more respectful of their culture and faith.
  • Finally, language barriers can often be a key factor as to why a business is unable to comply with regulations. Many Black and Minority ethnic led businesses felt that it would be helpful to have access to information in their native language, in plain English or in a pictorial way that would be easier to understand.

This requires us to consider whether we are meeting the needs of supporting diverse businesses to comply with fire safety legislation. The AFSA Working with Diverse business conference in 2018 stated that many of these businesses were falling foul of our enforcement and prosecution activity. As a sector, we must consider Why? – was it language, culture or barriers to engagement between us and the business community? This is something we needed to understand better.

Based on the findings from the evidence review, the following recommendations have been made at NFCC level, so we can work together on creating a holistic approach:

The ‘engaging with diverse businesses’ work stream should consider the findings of this evidence review and consider how this links in with the development of the equality and diversity toolkit.

Consider whether anything can be implemented around the following:

  • Ensuring information and advice related to regulations is presented in plain English. Consider whether information and advice can be presented in other ways, for example using graphics or in other languages.
  • Ensure staff members engaging with diverse businesses are aware of cultural factors which could present barriers to complying with regulations.
  • It is recommended that staff are provided with training, so they are sensitive to cultural factors and are aware of how to manage them effectively.
  • Raise awareness of regulations and the impact non-compliance can have on businesses.
  • Consider how awareness of regulations was raised in the case studies, and review whether something similar could be applied within the Fire and Rescue Service. Also consider the power of story-telling – for example, use case studies to explain the risks of non-compliance rather than facts and figures, as business owners are more likely to relate this to their own experiences.
  • Explore further working with partner organisations to ensure diverse businesses have access to the support required to comply with regulations. Also, ensure that business owners are aware that good quality advice and support is available, and questions about compliance to regulations can be asked without fear of prosecution.
  • Explore how regulatory bodies work with diverse businesses through local trade associations, community and faith groups etc. so information about regulation and compliance can be promoted through these groups. These groups are often respected and trusted amongst members of the BME community.

Enforcement is not always the answer. Education is key. Visiting the premises at the right times to suit the businesses. There is a need for a national Fire and Rescue Service communication strategy for working with Diverse businesses – Simple and Safe fire precautions promotion for BAME business.

Fire and Rescue Service level Actions:

Language: The terminology used in the fire service. Jargon is not helpful and doesn’t translate well into different languages. We all struggle to understand jargon, so must those whose English is a second or third language. Plain English is key.

Knowledge: Business safety practitioners need much more support and education about understanding Black, Asian and Minority ethnic individual’s attitudes to fire safety and risk.

Trust: Diverse businesses may not have trust in uniformed services due to their past experiences in their home countries. Engaging in a more informal manner might help, and using third parties to help bridge the gap with any language issues.

Representation: Recognition of the importance of using positive action in recruiting staff for business engagement roles.

  • Diverse businesses sometimes have no previous fire safety knowledge and won’t see it as a priority to spend money on. If you were born in the UK, there is a chance you have experienced regular fire alarm tests and evacuations in school and or work. This provides a good education around fire safety and risks. Not everyone is at the same starting point, so tailoring your safety visits to those starting points is key –education and awareness is where we can make the biggest impact.
  • The importance of investing money in the development of education. Awareness is better spent than funding a costly prosecution.
  • Reconsider how to fund some of the engagement work through business safety prevention activities.
  • Build relationships with cultural leaders to ask them to be our advocates.
  • Local research to understanding impacts on business compliance.

Bibliography/Sources/Consultation responders so far

Asian Fire Service Association (2020) Engaging with Diverse Businesses for Business Safety Compliance Seminar Report available at:

Asian Fire Services Association – SMOKE AND MIRRORS? Time to meet the challenge of equality in the fire and rescue service

British Heart Foundation. Information Pages https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/riskfactors/ethnicity/african-and-african-caribbean-background

British Medical Journal (2020) Neglect of older ethnic minority people in UK research and policy, available at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m212bmj.m212

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published statistics for all organisations in the UK in August 2020

Corcoran, J., Higgs, G., Higginson, A. (2011) Fire incidence in metropolitan areas: A comparative study of Brisbane (Australia) and Cardiff (United Kingdom), Applied Geography, 31, 1, 65-75.

Dean E (2016) An exploration of community and culture related fire injury risks available at:

Dean E (2018) Engaging with Diverse Businesses Rapid Evidence Review available at:

Equality Network (2018) Racism Within LGBT Communities.

Gov. UK (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report of an inquiry by Sir Williman Macpherson available at:

Gov.UK (2020) Ethnicity Facts and Figures; Fire and Rescue Services. Available at:

Gov.UK (2017) Race Disparity Audit available at:

Gov. UK (2020) The English Housing Survey headline report. Available at:

Gov.UK (2019) HMICFRS State of Fire and Rescue Report. Available at:

Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Phase 1 Report available at:

Hastie, C (2017) Community engagement and its role in fire prevention in a West Midlands neighbourhood. PhD Thesis. Coventry University, Coventry. Available at:

Hastie, C, Searle, R (2016) Socio-economic and demographic predictors of accidental dwelling fire rates. Fire Safety Journal 84: 50–56.

Home Office (2020) Fire and Rescue Workforce and Pensions Statistics, England

Kline, R. Dunlevey D (2018) AFSA Smoke and mirrors? Time to meet the challenge of equality in the fire and rescue service. Available at:

National Mental Health Development Unit, commissioned by the Care Quality Commission report. Count Me in the Census.

Office for National Statistics (2012) Ethnicity and National Identity in England and Wales. Societal Care Institute for Excellence. Co-production with black and minority ethnic people, 2008. Assessing the mental health needs of older people.

Societal Care Institute for Excellence. The fierce urgency of now: Tackling racial inequalities in social care, 2020

The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2018 Health equality Report

With thanks to those who have offered feedback so far

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust now called Blueprint for all

Racial Disparities Unit

UK Fire Services and their EDI leads

The Asian Fire Services Association (AFSA)

Medway African and Caribbean Association (MACA)

Black Lives Matter

West Kent Mind

Societal Care Institute for Excellence

Local Government Association