Statement from the Chief Fire Officer
The Fire and Rescue Service really understand the importance of teamwork.
Day in day out we work together to solve complex and dynamic emergency problems using a range of different skills. All the research shows that the best teams have people with diverse skills, backgrounds and experiences.
At the same time, we need to do more to recruit and retain people to the Service with these skills, backgrounds and experiences if we are to be the best organisation that we can be.
We are keen to build an even more inclusive organisation so that our staff always feel safe to challenge and be themselves at work.
By making sure we are an organisation people want to join and stay part of, supported by a culture of continuous improvement and inclusion, we will become an even better team.
The Service has achieved a Silver Award from a leading employer network for our work to promote diversity throughout the organisation.
We completed the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) assessment for the first time two years ago and received a Bronze Award. Last year (May 2019-June 2020), after improving many areas in line with our People Strategy, we were proud to receive our Silver Award.
Ninety-eight organisations worldwide, including four fire and rescue services, submitted the assessment and we were 29th overall. This is a fantastic achievement, which highlights the progress we have been making and shows the increased awareness and support for an inclusive culture.
Our People Strategy explains why we want the best possible working environment for all of our people. We want a place where everyone can achieve their full potential, a place where people of all backgrounds want to work because they see a place for themselves amongst us; and a place where our values of working together, honesty, respect and pride in helping others are our day to day experience.
People who want to work for us will have an equal chance of getting a job based on the skills and experience they can bring to the role.
To help us better reflect the communities we serve, we take positive action to encourage certain groups of people to join and start a career with us, such as:
- positive action evenings to give women the chance to have a go at our physical tests – something female applicants can sometimes struggle with – before they have to pass the tests as part of the recruitment process
- we have set up a number of support groups where staff members can feel supported and ask for advice
- some of our colleagues have told their stories about what it is like to work for the Service
- we regularly carry out people impact assessments to ensure our policies and procedures don’t affect our staff or communities in a detrimental way.
Facts and figures
We collect and use a wide range of data to help us in our equalities work. This includes demographic information about the people who live and work in Devon and Somerset, which groups of people are more likely to be at risk of fire based on the incident and other data and information about our employees, such as how many male and female employees we have and how many are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
To provide an effective service, it is important that we understand the impact of our policies and working practices on different people and that we ensure we are meeting our duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. We use the data that we collect when developing services to identify key issues, assess our performance and tailor our services to meet the needs of particular people.
We are adding data from new sources all the time, but below are some of our latest figures from the Recruitment and Workforce Diversity Annual Report January – December 2020.
- In 2019, we had our largest ever number of new female on-call firefighters join us, with 21 new starters. In 2020, this figure fell to 14, reflecting a wider reduction in recruitment due to Covid-19.
- Together with two new female wholetime firefighters starting in 2020, we reached the highest ever female representation in operational roles, with 106 women in operational roles.
- In 2020, the percentage of female applicants for on-call firefighter roles was 16.6%, which is 2.5% higher than 2019 and twice as high as in 2018 (7.4%).
- The application rate from female applicants for support vacancies reflects the wider community of Devon and Somerset.
- The numbers of applicants with a minority ethnic background is higher than our community (5-6%), with support staff 9.7%, on-call 7.7% and wholetime (despite being only internal candidates) 6.5%.
- Application rates from people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) for support staff (4.9%), on-call (3.8%) and wholetime (10.1%) are all higher than the community (2.2%).
- Female representation was 13.9% of our workforce at the end of the period, up from 13.6% at the start. This included 6.1% for on-call firefighters (increase on the previous year) and 6.2% for wholetime firefighters (increase). Support staff dropped slightly to 44.5% female and Control staff also decreased to 75% female.
- The Service’s workforce consists of 2.7% Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff. This does not take into account the 5.9% of staff who have chosen not to state their ethnic background.
- Compared to the average among English fire and rescue services of 4.5%, we have a lower diversity of staff with an ethnic minority background of 2.7%. While the percentage of minority ethnic people in our wider population is generally lower than in other parts of the country, there is a lower proportion in the Service than in the southwest region of England.
- The percentage of staff identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) is 2.2%, reflecting the community average of 2.2%.
- Currently, 2.6% of the Service’s workforce has declared a disability, far below the average of 11% within the community. This could be expected considering the nature of the firefighter role. However, disability should not automatically be seen as a barrier to joining us as a firefighter or member of support staff.
- Female representation in the senior management group (Area Manager and above, and Grade 10 and above for support staff) decreased to 21%.