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Norfolk 2021/22

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This is HMICFRS’s second full 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 requires improvement.

The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks requires improvement.

The extent to which the service looks after its people requires improvement.

Roy Wilsher

Roy Wilsher, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HMI summary

It was a pleasure to revisit Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (Norfolk FRS), and I am grateful for the positive and constructive way that the service engaged with our inspection.

Norfolk FRS requires improvement at providing an effective and efficient service, and in how it looks after its people.

I have concerns about the performance of Norfolk FRS in keeping people safe and secure from fires and other risks. In particular, I have serious concerns about how it keeps the public safe through its prevention activity. In view of these findings, I have been in contact with the chief fire officer, as I do not underestimate how much improvement is needed.

We were disappointed to see that the service hasn’t made the progress we expected since our 2019 inspection. For example:

  • There are 15 of areas of improvement outstanding from our previous inspection.
  • The service is missing opportunities to refer vulnerable people to other organisations if it can’t meet their needs.
  • The evaluation of operational performance is inconsistent, and opportunities to collect and share risk information and operational learning are being missed.
  • More work is needed to improve culture and behaviours, and to improve staff confidence in the service’s feedback mechanisms.

But it is good at responding to fires and other emergencies, and at responding to national risks.

These are the findings I consider most important from our assessments of the service over the last year:

The service isn’t targeting its prevention activities effectively. Firefighters don’t carry out safe and well visits or person-centred home fire risk checks (HFRCs) and haven’t carried out any face-to-face activity through the pandemic. It is missing the opportunity to check a range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

We were concerned to find the service doesn’t always carry out serious incident reviews following fatal fires. This means the service hasn’t learned from these experiences, missing the opportunity to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

The service doesn’t have written workforce plans linked or aligned to medium-term financial plans or risk analysis, nor does it take full account of the skills and capabilities and succession planning needed to carry out the integrated risk management plan or adapt to changing future risk.

The service has improved its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. It has a good equality, diversity and inclusion action plan with clear objectives, which is open to scrutiny.

Overall, we were concerned that prevention activity isn’t a high enough priority for the service. We would like to see improvements in the year ahead.

I have asked the inspection team to revisit the service to review the progress being made against the action plan, and to monitor progress through continuous engagement.

Effectiveness

How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

In our last inspection, Norfolk FRS’s effectiveness at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other emergencies required improvement. The service hasn’t made enough progress in this area.

The service has improved the way it understands the risk of fire and other emergencies. It works well with the public to improve understanding of risk. Crews visit high-risk sites and collect data that they can use if there are incidents there.

The service requires improvement to the way it prevents fires and other risks. Safeguarding needs to be improved. Staff knowledge of safeguarding continues to be patchy, and opportunities to refer vulnerable people to other organisations are being missed. The service also isn’t targeting its prevention activities effectively; during the pandemic it only responded to home fire risk check (HFRC) referrals. It doesn’t always carry out serious incident reviews after fatal fires.

The service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. It is targeting its fire safety audits effectively, but it does fewer than the national average. It isn’t responding quickly enough to requests for building control consultations, nor is it working with businesses effectively. This is because the service’s protection department doesn’t have enough capacity. The service approaches enforcement in a supportive way. The number of unwanted fire signals that the service is attending has been effectively reduced.

Norfolk FRS is good in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. It has improved its on-call availability, but it isn’t always achieving its response targets. Fire control staff give fire survival guidance to callers effectively, but resourcing has affected call handling and fire appliance turnout times. The service’s debriefing of operational incidents to gather and share learning is inconsistent.

The service is good at responding to national risks and is well prepared for terrorist incidents. It has good exercise plans with other organisations and cross-border services to test different scenarios, but staff find it hard to access cross-border risk information.

View the five questions for effectiveness

Efficiency

How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure?

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency requires improvement.

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

In our last inspection, Norfolk FRS required improvement at how it uses resources to manage risk. It also required improvement at how well it is securing an affordable way of managing risks including fire, now and in the future. It hasn’t made enough progress in this area.

The service continues to base its annual financial planning on its previous budget, with changes for inflation. There are no clear plans to address the medium-term financial challenges beyond 2024. These plans are needed to secure an affordable way of managing the risk of fire and other risks.

The service doesn’t have workforce plans linked to or aligned with medium-term financial plans or risk analysis, nor does it take full account of the skills and capabilities and succession planning needed to carry out the IRMP or adapt to changing future risk.

The service scenario plans for future spending reductions don’t do enough to recognise the wider external environment and risk, including how the reductions would affect services to the public.

More positively:

  • The service uses various contractual arrangements effectively, which has improved on-call
  • Its continuity arrangements are effective.
  • The service collaborates well with other organisations.
View the two questions for efficiency

People

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

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

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

In our last inspection, Norfolk FRS required improvement in how it looks after its people. It hasn’t made enough progress in this area.

The service needs to do more to improve how it treats its staff at all levels. Senior leaders need to be more visible and make sure staff feel appreciated and listened to.

The service now has a new cultural framework, but it hasn’t been well implemented. The framework should implement or align with the Core Code of Ethics for Fire and Rescue Services England.

Norfolk FRS doesn’t monitor secondary contracts to make sure staff working hours aren’t exceeded.

Some training courses are optional. There is confusion over some mandatory courses, including safeguarding, and equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I). Leadership development isn’t available to all staff, and personal development reviews are carried out inconsistently. This means that the service can’t assure itself that all staff have the capability and competence needed to achieve its IRMP’s objectives.

In our last inspection we found the service didn’t have a talent management programme to help it discover potential leaders. This continues to be the case.

More positively:

  • The service prioritises workforce wellbeing and supports staff wellbeing in various ways.
  • Its absence management is good.
  • It has improved its approach to ED&I.
  • It is effectively addressing disproportionality in recruitment and retention.
View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

2,079 square miles

Population

0.91m people
up3% local 5 yr change

Workforce

39% wholetime firefighters
61% on-call firefighters
0.79 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down4% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change

Assets

42 stations
50 fire engines

Incidents

2.3 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
3.3 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.7 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national

Cost

£23.43 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria

English Cymraeg