Kent 2018/19Read more about Kent
This is HMICFRS’s first annual assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.
The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.
The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.
The extent to which the service looks after its people is good.
Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are pleased with the performance of Kent Fire & Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve in some areas to give a consistently good service.
Kent FRS is good at providing an effective service. It is good at:
- understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- preventing fires and other risks;
- responding to fires and other emergencies; and
- responding to national risks.
But it requires improvement to the way it protects the public through fire regulation.
We judge the efficiency of its service to be good. It is good at making the best use of resources and at providing an affordable service.
It is good in the way that it looks after its people. It is good at:
- promoting the right values and culture;
- ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
- managing performance and developing leaders.
But the service requires improvement to the way it gets the right people with the right skills.
Overall, we commend Kent Fire & Rescue Service for its performance. This provides a good foundation for improvement in the year ahead.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. Kent Fire & Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
Kent FRS has a good understanding of risks to the public. It monitors a wide range of data, and regularly reviews this to keep it up to date. It uses and contributes to the Kent growth and infrastructure framework, which helps it to understand current and future risks.
The service communicates well with the public, including hard-to-reach groups. It does good prevention work and tries to target the most vulnerable people. But it could do more to give stations detailed information about vulnerability.
Kent FRS’s average response time to primary fires is good and is in line with other significantly rural services. It also has a very low failure to mobilise rate. That said, the service should focus on ensuring that it is meeting its response standard of attending 80 percent of life-threatening incidents within 10 minutes. It is currently achieving this 73 percent of the time.
Work is underway to recruit more on-call staff. A recruitment drive has been launched and the service is looking at different ways to boost numbers, including giving an enhanced rate of pay for providing daytime cover. Kent FRS has trained some crews to enable them to attend incidents with just three staff if required.
By this summer the service should have replaced its current mobile data terminals (MDTs). Due to a lack of confidence in MDT reliability, some fire crews carry paper copies of risk information, not all of which is up to date.
The service is failing to meet its targets for protection work such as audits and building control consultations. It needs to increase the productivity of its protection team to improve this.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
An efficient fire and rescue service will manage its budget and spend money properly and appropriately. It will align its resources to its risk. It should try to keep costs down without compromising public safety. Future budgets should be based on robust and realistic assumptions. Kent Fire & Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.
Overall, the service is good at making the most of its resources. It matches its resources to relevant risks, and has made savings by reducing staff numbers when risks have reduced in some areas. It has worked hard to address the lack of on-call staff.
Leaders are prepared to make changes to improve the efficiency of the service, even when those changes are challenging. There are policies in place to promote flexible working. The service has invested in innovative technology, to help it respond to fires more safely and efficiently.
It works well with the police, ambulance service and Border Force. It shares stations with the police, and supports the ambulance service in attending incidents. But it could do more to evaluate whether these initiatives are good value for money.
The service has a joint procurement agreement in place with other services. It has led large national procurements for personal protective equipment (PPE), and is leading on workwear, specialist PPE, and training. It could do more to attract external funding and generate income. For example, the service doesn’t charge for its primary authority schemes, which help businesses to meet fire regulations.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
A fire and rescue service that looks after its people should be able to provide an effective service to its community. It should offer a range of services to make its communities safer. This will include developing and maintaining a workforce that is professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse. The service’s leaders should be positive role models, and this should be reflected in the behaviour of the workforce. Overall, Kent Fire & Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.
The service offers excellent staff wellbeing support. Staff recognise that it is a priority, and know what is available to them. Those who need it receive welfare debriefs, which include continuing support. The service has a well-established approach to health and safety, including:
- out-of-hours support for work-related and personal issues; and
- regular training.
Leaders demonstrate and model the service’s expected behaviours. They encourage staff to get in touch with them directly. Staff across the service told us that there is a culture of trust and empowerment.
The service gives training, and makes sure its staff maintain and develop their skills. It monitors gaps in its capability in order to fill them as quickly as possible. It has a good system for recording training provided centrally, such as breathing apparatus and driving. However, there is an inconsistent approach to recording station-based training.
The service’s workforce doesn’t reflect wider society. Some 1.3 percent of its firefighters are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, compared to 6.9 percent of Kent residents. Only 4.9 percent of its firefighters are female. However, data from the service shows 48 percent of its staff from group manager or equivalent upwards are female (including the chief executive).
The service has a new, paperless appraisal system, which consists of one-to-one meetings. This has many benefits, but some staff don’t yet fully understand it. The service needs to give more guidance in order to make sure it is run consistently.