Independent reporting lines

There are a number of drivers leading to the provision of an independent reporting line being considered notable practice for fire and rescue services. Recommendation #2 from the Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade states “Consider anonymised reporting of incidents relating to bullying, misogyny and racism. In a closed team-based culture, individuals/groups can and have become stigmatised for reporting poor behaviour or bad experiences” and links to Outcome #3 “Staff can report incidents anonymously with no fear of the repercussions.” This, in addition to more general outcomes of other independent reviews and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue reports, including the notion that some staff members do not report incidents because they believe that nothing would be done and proposal that services should encourage staff to report discrimination (cf. HMICFRS State of Fire 2022, pgs 50&51) suggests that all fire and rescue services would benefit from providing an independent reporting line to their staff to help develop inclusive and positives cultures and maintain a reputation of trust with staff and the public.

Independent channels for concerned people to confidently raise issues such as complaints and whistleblowing allegations are vital for maintaining an open and transparent society, as they expose misconduct or hidden threats. If staff are reluctant to speak up, then certain problems can remain out of sight, so anonymous reporting channels can encourage people to come forward and reveal relevant information before it’s too late.

It is considered important for any organisation to provide effective, confidential and secure reporting channels to protect and enable people to raise concerns confidently, without fear of victimisation, by ensuring anonymity. Allowing anonymous reporting is intended to break down barriers, encouraging the widest number of people to come forward, and therefore offering organisations the greatest degree of protection from the potential of reputational risk.

Some Fire and Rescue Services have already engaged providers to operate independent reporting lines on their behalf and, in some cases, in collaboration with other services. Some of the commercially available options that are in the marketplace are as follows:

Organisations (A-Z)

Whilst NFCC cannot mandate on any individual Fire and Rescue Service, the view from Council at the meeting in March 2023 was overwhelming in support of such an approach. This aligns with the NFCC expectation that the cost and benefit of such an arrangement are such that FRSs should have these or very similar arrangements in place to support improvement. NFCC does not specifically endorse any of these organisations, but is well-placed to help support and facilitate conversations with providers and between services. This article is a centralised source of information to be provided to the sector.