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Lincolnshire 2021/22

People

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

The service needs to consider the whole organisation and staff needs when looking after its people; from looking after staff wellbeing to developing skills.

We are pleased to see that the service has recently made more wellbeing support available to staff. But there is still more work to do. For example, wellbeing must remain a priority and managers should make sure that they’re having appropriate conversations with staff.

The service recently introduced a clearly defined set of behaviours, and has begun to promote this to the workforce. While it was too early for us to assess the impact of this during our inspection, the values and behaviours have been modelled throughout the service. Continued efforts need to be made to ensure these are understood at all levels.

The service needs to make sure that its workforce has the skills and capabilities needed to carry out its work. Its workforce and training plans must make sure that staff have the necessary skills to carry out the service’s IRMP. This will ensure that the service can maintain a competent and effective workforce. For example, the service must assure itself that operational staff have had enough training to give them the risk‑critical skills needed to do their job. And that its trainers and assessors are competent to carry out these assessments.

The service has improved how it records and monitors training. Recent investment in new software, for example, should help in this area. But we haven’t seen a plan for how this will be made available to all staff.

The service’s performance and development review process has been updated to include individual sessions for on-call staff. Wholetime and green book staff appraisals objectives cover both personal development and personal performance. The newly launched on-call Personal Development Review (PDR) is still being implemented.

There is still no talent management process in place. And the service needs to improve how it manages the career pathways of staff; in particular, identifying, developing and supporting high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

It has made a good start on improving its grievance procedure. But it is early days and the service now needs to work to make sure that staff have confidence in it.

Although some progress has been made recently in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we are concerned that this is slow. Awareness among staff is still low and training is very limited. For example, staff networks are limited and rarely held. And the service needs to do more to make sure its recruitment and promotion processes are fair. It recognises this and is making changes to address it.

Health and safety training needs to be improved. Staff generally consider the new absence policy to be an improvement. But its application can be inconsistent, and levels of long-term sickness remain high.

There is no evidence of workforce planning over the life of the IRMP, or to a level of detail that would support allocating resources when needed.

Questions for People

1

How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at promoting the right values and culture.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 effectively promoted, and staff should have access to a range of wellbeing support that can be tailored to their individual needs.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure all staff understand and demonstrate its values.
  • The service should make sure that wellbeing is sufficiently prioritised.

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

The service is actively promoting a new set of values and behaviours

After our inspection in 2018, we recommended that the service should make sure that staff understand and demonstrate its values and behaviours at all levels of the organisation.

The service has made progress in this area by introducing a new set of clearly defined values and behaviours. These have been promoted to staff through regular conversations with line managers. Our staff survey showed that 90.5 percent (133 of 147) of those who responded are aware of the service’s statement of values. But during our inspection we found that some of the staff we interviewed had limited understanding of them.

Staff we spoke to are proud to work for the service and 83 percent (122 of 147) of those who responded to our survey told us that they are treated with dignity and respect. Over 70 percent told us that the senior leaders and managers consistently modelled and maintained the service’s values. But some staff we spoke to during our inspection felt that the visibility of senior leaders was low, although it is recognised this was during the pandemic when face-to-face visits were restricted.

The service should continue to build on its progress by actively promoting its newly implemented values and behaviours. This will make sure they are accepted and understood throughout the service and leaders always act as role models.

The service has improved access to its wellbeing support

The service has improved the way staff can access its wellbeing support. This is after it was identified as an area for improvement in our 2018 inspection. Staff now have good access to a range of wellbeing support to help their physical and mental wellbeing. These include an occupational health service, a peer support team and a professional counselling service.

Ninety-seven percent of those who responded to our staff survey (143 of 147) are confident that they would be offered wellbeing services after an incident. And 95 percent (140 of 147) stated they are able to access services to support their mental wellbeing. To continue to meet the needs of its staff, the service should make sure that there are wellbeing conversations. While most staff told us that they found these discussions useful, 37 percent (54 of 147) stated that they only happened once a year or not at all.

The service has a wellbeing and inclusion board. But staff we spoke to questioned its effectiveness as its results are not widely communicated or known. The service should build on progress made in this area by making sure that the work of the board is effective, has appropriate oversight from senior officers, and is properly communicated to all staff.

Staff understand and have confidence in health and safety policies

The service has clear health and safety policies and procedures. These are accessible to staff who are trained in a range of areas, including risk assessment processes and accident statistics.

Ninety-eight percent (143 of 147) of those who responded to our staff survey stated that they understood the policies. And 90 percent (132 of 147) are satisfied that the service took their personal safety and welfare seriously.

The culture of health and safety throughout the service is generally good. But we found limited evidence of regular refresher training. And there aren’t enough resources to support consistent communications to staff about health and safety information.

The service has introduced a new absence management policy, but results are sometimes inconsistent

We reviewed a selection of case files to consider how the service manages and supports staff through absence.

The service recently published a new absence management policy, which is clear and supported by effective processes. Absences are generally managed in line with the new policy and are reported into the service’s performance board and corporate leadership team. But the level of autonomy given to individual managers means that staff may not always be treated equally. At times, this means results are inconsistent.

Plus, some managers told us that they find it challenging to find the time to manage absences thoroughly.

Sickness absence is reported to the performance board and corporate leadership team. But it is unclear how the service effectively manages sickness absence. Long-term sickness has increased from 6,317 days (or shifts) lost due to long-term sickness during 2019/20 to 6,997 days (or shifts) lost during 2020/21. Plus, feedback from the representative bodies via our survey states that the service isn’t effective in managing sickness absence. This feedback came from the Fire Brigades Union and the Fire and Rescue Services Association (formerly the Retained Firefighters Union).

The service’s data of 11.7 days lost to sickness a year per full-time equivalent is reduced when taking absences due to the pandemic and self-isolation into account.

2

How well trained and skilled are FRS staff?

Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at getting the right people with the right skills.

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

Fire and rescue services should have workforce plans in place that are linked to their integrated risk management plans, set out their current and future skills requirements, and address capability gaps. This should be supplemented by a culture of continuous improvement that includes appropriate learning and development across the service.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure that its trainers and assessors are competent to carry out risk critical assessments.
  • The service needs to make sure there is a plan in place to develop its training recording system and that formal corporate oversight of the system takes place.
  • The service should make sure its workforce plan takes full account of the necessary skills and capabilities to carry out the integrated risk management plan.

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

The service doesn’t plan its workforce requirements

The service does some workforce planning. But it doesn’t take full account of the skills and capabilities it needs to effectively meet the needs of its IRMP. We found limited evidence that planning allows the service to fully consider workforce skills and overcome any gaps. For example, a plan showing what staff and skills are needed to meet the requirements of the IRMP over the coming years. But this isn’t available.

The service received a cause of concern from our inspection in 2018 relating to a need to assure itself that it has systems to record and monitor training. Investment in new software has allowed the service to significantly improve its ability to do this. We feel this specific area of the 2018 cause of concern has been discharged, but more planning and development of the software is required to cover all training for all staff.

The service’s training plans make sure it can maintain competence and capability effectively. For example, there is a thorough maintenance of competence programme available for some staff. But developing this system for other staff hasn’t been prioritised.

Most staff told us that they could access the training they need to do their jobs well.

In February 2021, the service published a new service assurance policy. This stated that the station-based audits must change to provide assurance that the maintenance of competence programme is carried out by competent assessors. This was noted during our inspection as being imminent. These audits are vital to making sure that the service’s training officers and assessors are competent to carry out the assessments.

The service needs to do more to improve how it considers future needs and carries out succession planning. The needs of the workforce are not incorporated into requirements of its IRMP.

There is a system in place to review workforce capabilities. But it is ineffective and there is a risk that staff may lack important skills for the future. Detailed planning beyond an annual cycle was limited.

Overall, the service has a good approach to learning. But it could do more to improve the balance of training and development across the duty systems and with control room staff

The service promotes a culture of continuous improvement throughout the organisation. And staff are encouraged to carry out learning and development work. For example, organisational learning is discussed regularly and staff benefit from a new regular publication that provides them with important information.

We are pleased to see that the service has a range of resources in place. These include access to integrated e-learning platforms that link to its training recording system. Generally, staff see this as a positive change.

Our staff survey shows that of those who responded (147), 47 hadn’t had enough training to do their job effectively. Forty-eight are satisfied with the level of training and development available to them. Some managers report that keeping up to date with learning is challenging. This is service-wide, but particularly relevant to fire control and the on-call workforce who do not always get the same level or offers of training as full-time staff.

3

How well does the FRS ensure fairness and diversity?

Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

Lincolnshire 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 that equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly embedded and understood across the organisation. This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels within the service. It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.

Cause of concern

The service hasn’t done enough since the last inspection to improve its EDI.

Recommendations

By 30 September 2021, the service should:

  • give greater priority to how it increases awareness of EDI across the organisation;
  • make sure that all staff receive appropriate EDI training;
  • improve how it works with its staff and provides feedback in relation to EDI issues;
  • improve the understanding and use of equality impact assessments in all aspects of its work, and consider if its policies and procedures are inclusive and support those with protected characteristics; and
  • make sure that there is a programme of positive action to support its recruitment.

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

The service needs to do more to gather, and act on, feedback from staff to help it become more inclusive

The service needs to improve its approach to equality, diversity, and inclusion. The level of training it offers to staff is limited. Staff networks are limited and rarely held, and members of these groups don’t see a link to the service’s priorities and long‑term aims.

Although the service does have ways of getting staff feedback, these are inconsistent and not wide ranging. The senior team has been available to staff through remote sessions. But we heard mixed views about whether senior staff were approachable, and about the value of their communications with staff.

Encouragingly, senior leaders recently introduced engagement sessions and created videos for staff. There is now clear direction for the senior leadership team to be more visible and to make sure they work with staff. Some staff we spoke to didn’t often see senior leaders and reported that the remote sessions weren’t scheduled regularly.

Staff have limited confidence in the ways in which the service obtains feedback and don’t think they are effective. A total of 42.2 percent (62 of 147) of those who responded to our staff survey disagreed with the statement: “I feel confident in the mechanisms for providing feedback to all levels”. Staff have mixed views on how effective the service’s processes for seeking feedback and involvement from representative bodies are. But staff did often report that they felt confident to challenge decisions where necessary.

The service has a process in place to carry out equality impact assessments. But the impact on each of the protected characteristics wasn’t being properly assessed. It has a limited number of equality impact assessments available, and these differ in quality and usefulness. The service recognises this and has recently trained relevant staff in this.

The service has increased staff diversity at all levels within the organisation, but these changes are minimal. As of 31 March 2020, 14 percent (12) of all joiners were women and 2 percent (two) of new joiners self-declared as being from a black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) group. This shows an increase in headcount for both women and people from BAME groups since 2017/18, although the percentage is unchanged. For firefighter recruitment, as of 31 March 2020, 13 percent (10) of all new recruits were women and 3 percent (two) were from a BAME background. This is an improvement when compared with previous years (which were very low for BAME recruitment). Of the service’s entire workforce, 1.6 percent (11) are from a BAME group and 13.9 percent (95) are women. This compares with 1.2 percent (seven) and 12.7 percent (92) respectively, five years ago.

The service needs to encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds into middle and senior level positions. These positions tend to be filled internally, which means that the service isn’t making the most of opportunities to make its workforce more diverse.

The service doesn’t have an inclusive promotion process

The service needs to do more to make sure its recruitment and promotion processes are fair. Recruitment campaigns aren’t directed at, or accessible to, under-represented groups. And the service isn’t leading change in this area to increase the diversity of its workforce. It recognises this and has employed a recruitment manager, and has plans to introduce positive action days later this year.

While it does have a clear progression pathway for its operational staff, there is no similar process for fire staff. This means that there are far fewer promotion and progression opportunities for this group.

But we were told that there are progression opportunities for fire staff within the wider county council structure. Our staff survey showed that 54.4 percent (80 of 147) of those who responded don’t agree that the promotion process in the service is fair. Plus, 25.2 percent (37 of 147) feel that the service is not effective in ensuring that recruitment processes are fair and accessible.

Feedback from staff is that the grievance procedure has improved. Bullying and harassment is being reported, but the service could do more to improve staff understanding in this area

The service could do more to improve its staff’s understanding of bullying, harassment and discrimination. This includes their responsibilities to end it. Of those who responded to our staff survey, 15.6 percent (23 of 147) told us that they had been bullied or harassed. And 22.4 percent (33 of 147) told us that they had faced discrimination over the past 12 months.

The service does have clear policies and procedures in place. But staff have limited confidence in the service’s ability to deal effectively with cases of bullying, harassment, discrimination, grievances and discipline. Of the 17 staff who told us that they had reported this behaviour (formally and informally), seven confirmed that action has been taken. But only two felt that the action would make a difference.

Following our 2018 inspection, the service was told that it needed to improve its grievance procedures. It has since worked with Lincolnshire County Council to draft a new policy. Some staff have had training, and there’s a plan to roll this out to the entire workforce.

Our survey of representative bodies found that they don’t feel the service is effective in managing grievances. Although staff report that the process for managing grievances has improved following a recent review and investment in training. Data shows an increase in grievances relating to bullying and harassment. There were three in 2020/21, compared with none in the year before. But the staff we spoke to thought that, in general, grievances weren’t that common and told us that they weren’t aware of any issues.

Feedback from staff and representative bodies highlighted that some facilities aren’t appropriate for female staff. This wasn’t a problem at many premises we inspected in person. But some staff reported that the standard and level of facilities can be a problem. And that they don’t always have privacy when changing into suitable workwear before responding to incidents.

Read the cause of concern progress letter

4

How well does the FRS manage performance and develop leaders?

Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 high-potential staff and improving diversity in leadership roles.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should improve all staff understanding and application of the performance development review process and ensure they are completed for all staff.
  • The service should put in place a specific process to identify, develop and support high potential staff and aspiring leaders.
  • The service should assure itself it has an effective mechanism in place for succession planning including senior 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 needs to do more to make sure all staff have regular appraisals that support its overarching plan

The service still has an inconsistent approach to performance and development. Staff don’t all have specific and individual objectives, and some have not had their performance assessed in the last year. Through our staff survey, some staff did report that they had regular, meaningful discussions with their manager.

On-call staff told us that the appraisal system has recently been made available to them. But the service’s own data indicates that completion rates for on-call staff are between 60 and 75 percent.

Results from our staff survey also shows that 45.6 percent (67 of 147) of those who responded only have a conversation about learning and development once a year or less. And 11.6 percent (17 of 147) reported that they have never had one. A total of 74.1 percent (109 of 147) of staff have had a personal development review or appraisal in the last 12 months.

The service needs to do more to identify and develop high-potential staff

After our first inspection, we recommended that the service put in place a process to identify, develop and support high-potential staff and aspiring leaders.

The service still needs to improve how it manages the career pathways of staff. This includes those with specialist skills and for leadership roles. During our latest inspection, staff told us that there aren’t routine development opportunities or processes in place. Also, that promotion for new managers is on the assumption that individuals will meet the cost of membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers, coursework, and annual exams themselves (the service reimburses the exam fee for all those who pass).

Temporary promotions aren’t well managed, and we found evidence of them being in place for long periods. The service has a relatively high number of temporary posts in place. This is considered detrimental to staff wellbeing and shows a lack of workforce planning.

The service doesn’t have talent management schemes in place to develop leaders and high-potential staff. We were told that there are plans to introduce one but that this will take some time. Our staff survey showed that 25.9 percent of those who responded (38 of 147) didn’t feel the service was effective in supporting their progression and development.

The service should consider putting in place more formal arrangements to identify and support members of staff to become senior leaders. There is currently a significant gap in its succession planning.