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Lancashire 2021/22

People

How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

We are pleased to see the service has continued to work on creating a culture that is line with its values and aligned to the UK national code of ethics for fire and rescue services. Throughout this inspection we were told by staff again and again that they were proud to work for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

The service continues to make sure that recruitment processes are improving its workforce’s diversity by taking positive action. It has increased the diversity of its assessment panels so that they better represent the people the service is trying to attract.

Our inspection found that there was a significant range of wellbeing support available to support staff’s physical and mental health, and that staff were aware of how to access this support. The service continuously monitors and adapts this support to make sure it is meeting the needs of staff.

We were pleased to see that since our last inspection the service had made some progress in the way it supports the development of leadership and high-potential staff. It has a new talent management plan, with progression pathways and an appraisal process to identify talent.

 

Questions for People

1

How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Outstanding

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is outstanding at promoting the right values and culture.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was outstanding in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have positive and inclusive cultures, modelled by the behaviours of their senior leaders. Health and safety should be promoted effectively, and staff should have access to a range of wellbeing support that can be tailored to their individual needs.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service has well-defined values and communicates well with staff

The service continues to have well-defined values that are understood by staff. Our staff survey showed that 98 percent of respondents (242 out of 246) were aware of the service values. Behaviours that reflect service values are shown at all levels of the service. During our inspection, we were consistently told by staff that they were proud to work for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service. The service has completed work to align its values to the new UK national code of ethics (PDF document) for fire and rescue services.

Our survey showed that 80 percent of respondents (197 out of 246) thought the service was effective at providing a positive culture that reflected its values. However, our staff survey showed that 32 percent of respondents (78 out of 242) felt that senior leaders didn’t consistently model and maintain the service’s values.

We found that staff felt they were able to give feedback to the service, and that changes were made as result. The service has several ways it communicates with staff, including senior leadership visits and the staff respondents. There is also a virtual noticeboard where staff can ask questions or leave comments, and where leaders can respond to them. However, our staff survey showed that 38 percent of respondents (93 out of 246) weren’t confident in the ways to feedback at all levels.

There is a positive working culture throughout the service, with staff empowered and willing to challenge poor behaviours when they encounter them. Staff we spoke to during the inspection were confident to challenge inappropriate language or behaviours and felt the service would support them.

Staff have good access to services that support their mental and physical health

The service continues to have well understood and effective wellbeing policies in place that are available to staff. A significant range of wellbeing support is available to support both physical and mental health. The service received an award for personal resilience from Oscar Kilo. It has held sessions for staff on:

  • the Employee Assistance Programme;
  • trauma risk management;
  • muscular skeletal injury;
  • suicide awareness; and
  • the use of therapy dogs.

In our staff survey, 98 percent of respondents (242 out of 246) reported they were able to access services to support their mental health. But the results also showed that 19 percent of respondents (46 out of 246) had never had a health and wellbeing discussion with their manager. The service should make sure it is continuing to meet the needs of its staff.

Health and safety arrangements are effective

The service has effective and well-understood health and safety policies and procedures in place.

Both staff and representative bodies have confidence in the health and safety approach taken by the service. In the staff survey, 96 percent of respondents (235 out of 246) said they were satisfied that their personal safety and welfare were taken seriously at work. Surveys by representative bodies found that staff felt they were involved in decisions about health and safety matters.

The service could do more to monitor staff working hours, including for those who have dual contracts. Staff are told that they should comply with working time regulations and shouldn’t work excessive hours. But although we found that the service had a very small proportion of staff with two contracts and that its levels of overtime were low, and although our staff survey showed that 96 percent of respondents (235 out of 246) felt their personal safety and welfare was taken seriously, we didn’t see robust arrangements for line managers to monitor the working hours of their staff. This is something the service should review.

The service has processes in place to support absence management

As part of our inspection, we reviewed some case files to consider how the service manages and supports staff through absence including sickness, parental and special leave.

We found there were clear processes in place to manage absences for all staff. There is clear guidance for managers, who are confident in the process. Absences are managed well and in accordance with policy. Staff told us that managers make regular contact with staff who aren’t at work due to sickness.

Overall, the service has seen a small increase in short-term staff absences over the 12 months between 2019/20 and 2020/21 (1.64 days lost per wholetime worker compared 1.17 days). However, long-term absence fell significantly during the same period.

2

How well does the FRS get the right people with the right skills?

Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at getting the right people with the right skills.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have a workforce plan in place that is linked to their integrated risk management plans, sets out their current and future skills requirements and addresses capability gaps. They should supplement this with a culture of continuous improvement that includes appropriate learning and development throughout the service.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service makes sure that the skills and capabilities it needs are available

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has good workforce planning in place. This makes sure skills and capabilities align with what is needed to effectively carry out the CRMP.

Workforce and succession planning is subject to consistent scrutiny in the form of regular meetings with all departments to identify current and future gaps in workforce capacity and capability.

Most staff told us that they could access the training they needed to be effective in their role. The service’s training plans make sure they can maintain competence and capability effectively. Staff can use the service’s ‘maintenance of competency’ system to access current training and to learn about future opportunities. Ninety percent (221 of 246) of respondents to the staff survey agreed that they had received enough training to do their job effectively.

The service monitors staff competence via a competency training system. The service updates its understanding of staff’s skills and risk-critical safety capabilities in line with its policies with regards to refreshing and updating skills, and in line with national operational guidance. It also has annual development reviews with staff, to identify their training needs. This approach means the service can identify gaps in capabilities and resilience, and can make sound and financially sustainable decisions about current and future needs.

The service’s training department makes sure it can maintain competence and capability effectively. For example, all operational staff have mandatory assessments to make sure they maintain their most important skills, in line with the service’s policies. We reviewed competency records that showed that most staff were up to date with their main skills.

The service supports staff with learning and development

A culture of continuous improvements is promoted throughout the service and staff are encouraged to learn and develop. For example, the service has invested in breathing apparatus training and facilities at the training centre.

Most staff told us that they could access a range of learning and development resources. Overall, 84 percent of staff (207 of 246) who responded to our survey said they were satisfied with the level of learning and development that was available. This allows them to do their job effectively. A lot of the learning is provided online. Staff can cover topics such as safeguarding, and equality and diversity.

3

How well does the FRS ensure fairness and promote diversity?

Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Creating a more representative workforce will provide huge benefits for fire and rescue services. This includes greater access to talent and different ways of thinking, and improved understanding of and engagement with their local communities. Each service should make sure equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly understood and demonstrated throughout the organisation. This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the service. It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service works with staff on matters that affect them

The service has developed several ways to engage with staff on issues and decisions that affect them. This includes methods to build all-staff awareness of fairness and diversity, as well as targeted engagement to identify matters that affect different staff groups. The service sends out routine bulletins and publishes news on the intranet, as well as running a programme of in-person visits and virtual dial-ins.

The service has various staff networks in place, including:

  • the LGBTQ+ group;
  • the race and religion group;
  • the women and families group;
  • the disability group; and
  • the neurodiversity group.

Representative bodies and staff associations reported that the service engaged with them well and meaningfully.

The service carries out its own staff survey twice a year, and questions staff on several topics to canvas their views, for example gathering feedback after some sessions on wellbeing were held for all staff. During this inspection, staff told us they were happy with the ways they could give feedback. Many referred to the virtual ‘shout out’ noticeboard where they could post questions that were then discussed and answered.

The service is good at tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination

Staff have a good understanding of what bullying, harassment and discrimination are, and their negative effect on colleagues and the organisation.

In this inspection, 8 percent of respondents (19 out of 246) told us they had been subject to harassment and 13 percent (32 out of 246) to discrimination over the past 12 months.

Most staff survey respondents are confident in the service’s approach to tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination, grievances and disciplinary matters. The service’s bullying and harassment procedure was developed in consultation with the representative bodies, staff networks and the equality steering group. The equality and inclusion policy also explains different types of discrimination, harassment, victimisation and bullying, and gives examples of these behaviours.

Investigations and disciplinaries are dealt with by managers who have been trained in grievance procedures. They are supported by the human resources department. The numbers of disciplinaries and grievances are reported regularly to senior managers, who review them.

The service acts positively to improve diversity within recruitment

There is an open, fair and honest recruitment process for staff or those wishing to work for the fire and rescue service. Recruitment opportunities are advertised both internally and externally, which has encouraged applicants from diverse backgrounds, including into middle and senior management roles.

The service has put considerable effort into developing its recruitment processes so that they are fair and understood by potential applicants. It runs several positive action events, such as ‘have a go’ day, as well as social media campaigns. It also works face to face with representatives from the community.

The service is working to remove the risk of disproportionality in recruitment processes. For example, it is providing unconscious bias training for interview panels and ensuring that the panels are more representative of the applicants the service is trying to attract. The recruitment policies are comprehensive and cover opportunities in all roles. In 2021, the fire service’s firefighter recruitment department recorded that:

  • 11 percent of applicants were women;
  • 6 percent of applicants were from ethnic minority backgrounds;
  • 4 percent of applicants declared a disability; and
  • 11 percent of applicants identified as LGBTQ+.

The service has made some improvements in increasing staff diversity at all levels of the organisation. In 2020/21, of the whole workforce 3.4 percent are from ethnic minority backgrounds, which is similar to the levels of 5 years ago. However, 17.5 percent are women, which is a 4.1 percentage point improvement on 5 years ago.

The service has a good approach to equality, diversity and inclusion

The service has a good approach to equality, diversity and inclusion, and is making sure it can offer the right services to its communities and support staff with protected characteristics. The service’s chief fire officer is chair of the equality and inclusion steering group, which is supported by the staff networks. The networks promote activity in the service, raise awareness, and support staff and the service to test new ideas and activities.

The service identifies diversity and inclusion as a priority in its CRMP. It trains all staff on equality, diversity and inclusion.

Although the service has a process in place to assess equality impact through equality impact assessments (EQIA), the effect on each protected characteristic isn’t properly assessed or acted on. We found that not all EQIAs were completed and that the process lacks quality assurance. The service is aware of this. In 2021, it trained managers on EQIAs.

4

How well does the FRS manage performance and develop leaders?

Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at managing performance and developing leaders.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have robust and meaningful performance management arrangements in place for their staff. All staff should be supported to meet their potential, and there should be a focus on developing staff and improving diversity into leadership roles.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

The service manages individuals’ performance well

There is a good performance management system in place, which allows the service to effectively develop and assess the individual performance of all staff. The service has recently moved the appraisal process online.

Through our staff survey, most respondents reported that they had regular discussions with their manager and that these were meaningful, with 69 percent of respondents (151 out of 219) stating they found the personal development discussions useful. Each staff member has individual goals and objectives, and regular assessments of performance. Staff feel confident in the performance and development arrangements that are in place.

The service’s promotion and progression processes are fair and understood

The service has put considerable effort into developing its promotion and progression processes so that they are fair and understood by staff. The promotion and progression policies are comprehensive and cover opportunities in all roles.

The service has effective succession planning processes in place that allow it to effectively manage the career pathways of its staff, including roles that need specialist skills. Since our last inspection, the service has created new career pathways in the protection department.

Selection processes are managed consistently. We found that most applicants had been given feedback following the promotion process, and the service had kept records of how the decisions were made. Temporary promotions are used appropriately to fill short-term resourcing gaps.

In our staff survey, 60 percent of respondents (148 out of 246) agreed that the promotion process was fair.

The service has improved the way it supports the development of leadership and high-potential staff

The development of leadership and high-potential staff was highlighted as an area for improvement in our last inspection, and some progress has been made since then.

The service has a new talent management process in place that allows it to manage high-potential staff into leadership roles. The process is linked to the appraisal system. As part of the appraisal, staff have a career conversation with their manager. This conversation can contribute towards future promotion. This process will be used for individuals who display the right skills, leadership and capability.

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