COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL
GOVERNMENT News Release (116) issued by The Government News Network
on 20 May 2008
PARMJIT DHANDA has announced radical new measures today to change
the face of the fire Service over the next ten years and ensure it
fully reflects the communities it serves.
Setting out a new national Equality and Diversity Strategy that
includes the toughest ever recruitment targets for women and
people from minority ethnic communities he said the Fire and
Rescue Service has for far too long lagged behind the police,
prison service and NHS which is why the biggest ever drive to
attract the talent of all is needed.
Independent research has shown that Fire and Rescue Services
which better represent the diversity of their local population are
better equipped to reach those most at risk, driving down the
number of fires and incidents, and helping to ensure that all
communities are fully aware of fire safety and what they should do
if an incident occurs.
Currently just 3.2% of staff are from a minority ethnic
background, and just 3.1% of firefighters are women; there is only
one female chief fire officer, and none from minority ethnic
communities. In the police, one in twenty are now from a minority
ethnic background and more than one in five are women. Only 12 per
cent of Fire and Rescue staff are graduates.
The Audit Commission criticised fire services for their lack of
diversity earlier this year, as it hampers efforts to reach and
educate different communities about fire risk.
All 46 local fire and rescue services will now have a target to
ensure that at least 15 per cent of new firefighting recruits are
women and that the number of minority ethnic recruits overall
reflects the local working population by 2013. London for example
will aim to achieve 29%, with West Midlands, West Yorkshire and
Greater Manchester 21.2%, 11.5% and 9.2% respectively.
Under the new drive within five years there should also be parity
in retention and career progression between men and women and
between minority ethnic and white employees.
£2m of Government funding will be available to those that choose
a more challenging 18 per cent target for women and a target that
reflects the local minority ethnic working population plus 2-5%
(ie: 31-34% in London). This follows a £3m drive announced last
month to improve equality and diversity across the Service, for
example encouraging people from groups which are currently
under-represented in the Service including the gay community,
people with disabilities and graduates to consider a career in the
Fire and Rescue Service.
Parmjit Dhanda called on fire chiefs to demonstrate their
commitment to equality and diversity by opting for the higher
targets and applying for this cash saying: "People become
firefighters because they want a rewarding career serving the
local community and saving lives, but currently the Service often
fails to attract the talent and potential that women, gay people,
and those from minority ethnic backgrounds have to offer.
"It is without doubt that a more representative Fire Service
will improve the working environment and culture of the Service.
"This is not about political correctness, but about
providing opportunity for all and finding the best skilled and
talented people across communities. This will ensure the Fire and
Rescue Service not only better represents the diversity of the
communities they serve but enhances protection for everyone. The
challenge now is for Fire and Rescue Services to get out there and
find and recruit them. This might be radical, but it's the
right thing to do."
Charlie Hendry, Vice President of the Chief Fire Officers
Association and lead on equality and diversity said:
"The Chief Fire Officers' Association welcomes the
publication of the new national strategy for equality and
diversity. The Association has been frustrated by the relatively
slow progress in achieving improvement and are committed to help
bring about substantial success.
"The service is full of dedicated men and women serving
their communities who deserve recognition for their efforts. We
hope the strategy can give renewed emphasis to understanding the
needs of different communities and making an already successful
service even better. We hope also that traditional public images
of firefighters can continue to develop to reflect a modern service."
Each service will set out an annual action plan with practical
steps to improve recruitment. And services that lag behind will
not normally be able to achieve an 'improving strongly'
A new National Strategy also published today requires each fire
chief to take action that leads to real progress, contributing
details of what they have achieved to an annual report, published
by the Government. As well as showing progress against the
targets, the report will detail how Fire and Rescue Services are
improving their employment practices and service delivery. The
need for a National Strategy has been highlighted by the findings
of a new survey of firefighters. This showed that while most feel
valued and have good working relationships, harassment,
discrimination and even assaults are not uncommon in the workplace.
The survey reported on a number of issues including evidence of
unacceptable behaviours: for example a third of respondents had
experienced bullying or harassment in the previous 12 months and a
quarter said they had been verbally abused. There was also
evidence of discrimination by individuals against work colleagues
on grounds of age; gender; sexuality and race.
Parmjit Dhanda also said:
"It is disturbing to see such unacceptable behaviour is
taking place in today's fire and rescue service. No-one
should be victimised, harassed or abused at work and I want to see
much greater commitment from managers at all levels, to stamp out
this menace wherever it occurs. We can really improve the culture
by changing the make-up of the Service."
Notes to Editors:
Documents published today:
Equality and Diversity Strategy: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/equalitydiversitystrategy
Firefighter Survey: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/firefightersurvey2008
National Framework: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/nationalframework200811
1. Ways in which Fire and Rescue Services can take action include:
* Advertising in women's changing rooms in gyms and leisure
centres. A recent Government advertising campaign aimed at young
women attracted over 2,500 requests for information. London Fire
Brigade reported that in previous recruitment drives they had been
unable to improve on a 7 per cent application rate from women but
following the advertising this rose to 17 per cent.
* Outreach and mentoring programmes to ensure that people with
the right potential but who would not normally consider a career
in the service are given this opportunity.
* Ensuring all staff including senior managers are trained and
aware about the benefits of equality and diversity.
* Developing an action plan to boost equality and diversity and
making this along with progress reports available to the public.
* Ensure that bullying, harassment, unfair discrimination and
unacceptable behaviours are dealt with fairly, quickly and transparently.
2. There will also be new guidance produced with the Local
Government Association and Chief Fire Officers' Association
to support each Fire and Rescue Service and the Government will
recognise the best achievers at an annual awards ceremony.
3. Latest statistics show that there has been a gradual increase
in the representation of women and minority ethnic staff over the
last three years. At 31 March 2007, women formed 3.1 per cent of
the operational workforce compared with 2.5 per cent in 2005 and
minority ethnic staff formed 3.2 per cent of all staff (uniformed
and non-uniformed combined) compared with 2.7 per cent in 2005.
4. This compares to the police where 5 per cent are from minority
ethnic groups and 22 per cent are women. In the prison service 5.7
per cent of staff are from minority ethnic groups and 21.9 per
cent are women.
Fire and Rescue Per Per - Women Indi - Indicative
Services -centage centage fire - cative
of All Working fighters new
FRS age(1) per cent recru
staff minority of FRS
that are ethnic staff
- Women ethnic
ethnic in that
Avon 1.7 4.8 3.1 15
Bedfordshire & 4.0 13.9 2.9 15
Buckinghamshire 1.2 8.7 2.2
Cambridgeshire 1.7 6.1 3.4 15
Cheshire 1.0 1.8 2.1 15
Cleveland 1.1 3.1 2.5 15
Cornwall 0.4 1.1 1.6 15
County Durham & 0.9 1.4 2.0 15
Cumbria 0.0 0.8 2.8
Derbyshire 2.1 4.2 2.7 15
Devon 0.2 1.5 4.8 15
Dorset 0.9 2.4 2.6 15
East Sussex 1.7 4.3 2.4 15
Essex 0.6 3.6 2.0 15
Gloucestershire 2.2 3.0 5.7 15
Greater 1.9 9.2 1.2 15
Hampshire 0.9 3.8 3.8
Hereford & 0.9 2.2 5.0
Hertfordshire 1.4 6.9
2.4 15 6.9
Humberside 0.9 2.1 3.6
Isle of Wight 0.0 1.7 4.2 15
Isles of Scilly 0.0 0.6 4.0 15
Kent 1.4 4.0 3.4 15
Lancashire 1.3 7.0 1.5 15
Leicestershire 4.0 15.6 2.7 15
Lincolnshire 0.9 1.5 6.3 15
London 12.5 29.0 3.3 15
Merseyside 1.8 3.2 3.1 15
Norfolk 1.0 1.8 2.3 15
North Yorkshire 0.7 1.6 3.6 15
Northamptonshire 2.1 5.1 3.1 15
Northumberland 0.4 1.0 3.4 15
Nottinghamshire 1.9 6.3 2.5 15
Oxfordshire 0.9 5.5 5.0 15
Royal Berkshire 2.3 11.9 2.1 15
Shropshire 1.5 2.8 2.3 15
Somerset 0.4 1.3 2.3 15
South Yorkshire 2.2 5.1 3.3 15
Staffordshire 2.4 3.2 5.0 15
Suffolk 1.8 3.0 5.0 15
Surrey 0.1 5.8 2.6 15
Tyne & Wear 0.5 3.6 3.0 15
Warwickshire 3.6 4.9 4.8 15
West Midlands 7.9 21.2 2.9 15
West Sussex 1.0 3.9 2.5 15
West Yorkshire 2.7 11.5 2.2 15
Wiltshire 1.6 2.7 3.4 15
England 3.2 9.9 3.1 15 9.9
In the Fire and Rescue Service as at 31 March 2007
Defined as persons aged 18-54. Source: aggregated from ONS
Census Table S101.
Women figs - Source: Annual returns to Communities and Local Government
News Releases: http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsroom