Sussex Fire Service needs ‘improvement’ on bullying

A fire service was told it “needs improvement” after a report uncovered bullying, harassment and discrimination, staff feeling undervalued and a lack of preparation for a terrorist incident.

Although a report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services (HMIFRS) says the service “has improved significantly since it was last inspected”, it says there are “still areas that require attention”.

It said the service must prioritize ongoing efforts to combat bullying, harassment and discrimination, including ensuring all staff understand and act on the service’s values.

It said the organization’s culture “is not always aligned with its values.”

Some employees said they felt they were treated differently, with on-call workers at some locations feeling ostracized and non-operational staff not always feeling valued, the report said.

The report uncovered incidents of bullying, harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, saying: “While these behaviors were not exhibited throughout the service, we found too many instances where the values ​​of the service were not being upheld have been confirmed.”

Of those who said they had felt discriminated against, only 7% had reported it and 1% thought action had been taken.

The report called for training all staff to recognize and challenge behaviors that are inconsistent with the service’s values, as well as encouraging applications from diverse backgrounds for middle- and senior-level positions to address the lack of diversity.

The report highlighted the fact that many firefighters spoken to “were unaware that they could potentially play a role in responding to a rampaging terrorist attack, thinking only the specialist team would be involved.” It urged all employees to be prepared to respond safely and effectively to such an incident and to ensure learning from drills is used to improve plans.

HMIFRS’ Matt Parr said: “I’m delighted to see that the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has improved since it was inspected in 2018.

“It has deployed more resources to expand its prevention and protection teams. We used to worry about these teams but now we’re happy with their performance.

“The service improves the way it responds to calls, better managing incidents and allowing fire engines to arrive within the expected time frame. It also has good workforce planning processes and is better at having the right people with the right skills in place.

“There are still areas where the service needs to be improved, but this includes ensuring firefighters are doing enough prevention activities, doing more to reduce unwanted fire signals, and continuing to ensure staff behavior is consistent with the organization’s values.

“We will continue to monitor the service closely to track its progress.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton said: “We are delighted to see that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) recognizes the significant progress we have made since its last report in 2019.

“The inspectors found that the District Council’s investment in the service since the last inspection has been key to fulfilling the improvement plan and has resulted in a lean, efficient and low-risk service.

“We have no ‘inadequate’ ratings and three of the four causes of concern previously highlighted by the HMICFRS have now been addressed.

“We recognize that there is still work to be done, particularly in the people pillar, where there is cause for concern and we are already addressing this as a priority through the implementation of our Community Risk Management Plan and People Service Plan.

“The safety of those who live, work and visit West Sussex will always be our top priority. We will continue to build on the foundations we laid to ensure we are an exceptional fire service.” Sussex Fire Service needs ‘improvement’ on bullying

Fry Electronics Team

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