NFCC unveils Culture Action Plan to enhance fire and rescue services


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Following the Culture and Inclusion Conference held in March 2023 and the HMICFRS report on ‘Values and culture in fire and rescue services’, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has crafted a comprehensive Culture Action Plan.

The plan seeks to tackle culture and inclusion issues within the fire and rescue sector.

Culture Action Plan: A call for inclusivity in the sector

The NFCC said it believes that the fire and rescue services must be inclusive, safe working environments, free from harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

To uphold public trust and provide top-notch services, the NFCC recognised that its employees need to feel valued, welcomed, and supported.

However, it is acknowledged that the standards and behaviours outlined in the core Code of Ethics are not being consistently upheld across the fire and rescue services.

The NFCC’s Culture Action Plan is thus their pledge to work in concert with fire and rescue services, UK Governments, and broader fire partners to bring about sustainable improvements and foster an inclusive, safe culture.

Implementing the Culture Action Plan: Towards a positive shift in culture

The Culture Action Plan aims to promote the development of effective leadership and behaviours, the integration of equality, diversity and inclusion, and the discovery and nurturing of diverse talent.

Moreover, the plan will support the health and wellbeing of those in fire and rescue services.

The NFCC extensively consulted UK Fire and Rescue Services and national partners while drafting the action plan.

They incorporated feedback gleaned from written responses and focus group discussions into the final design of the Plan.

Kathryn Billing, Cornwall Chief Fire Officer and NFCC Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Lead, stated: “NFCC’s Culture Action Plan comes at a time when many have felt disillusioned by the slow pace of equality, diversity and inclusion progress across our sector.

“There is a strength of leadership, togetherness and the collective commitment for change and the momentum for progress has shifted from the minority to the majority.”

Mark Hardingham, NFCC Chair, echoed similar sentiments: “As Chair of the NFCC, culture and inclusion is my number one priority. This action plan is an important step forward in working to build an inclusive culture across every UK fire and rescue service.”

To ensure proper execution and monitoring of the plan, the NFCC has set up an independent Challenge and Support Panel.

The panel will offer external scrutiny, advice, and challenge to the NFCC in their work on culture and inclusion.

For a full outline of the Culture Action Plan, visit the NFCC’s website here.

Why the Culture Action Plan matters

The unveiling of the NFCC’s Culture Action Plan signifies a significant leap towards a safer, more inclusive environment in the UK’s fire and rescue services.

It embodies an essential shift in our collective approach to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

This plan indicates an industry committed to change, recognising the inherent value of diversity, not just as a moral imperative but also as a practical necessity for efficient service delivery.

Culture Action Plan: Key Deliverables and Consultation Process

Over the past five years, NFCC has produced a variety of tools and guidelines via its People and Leadership programmes.

These resources have been designed with input from subject matter experts within and outside the fire and rescue services, including academics and commissioned consultants.

Several new products are in the pipeline, with others under consideration.

The plan also mentions a meticulous consultation approach involving extensive discussions with fire and rescue services as well as wider partners.

This extensive dialogue has highlighted key themes that will shape the NFCC’s work in the future.

The importance of partnerships in the Culture Action Plan

The plan stresses that the promotion of an inclusive culture will only be achievable through robust partnerships.

NFCC is committed to cooperating with a wide array of partners, including staff representative bodies, unions, networking groups, employers, Westminster government, devolved administrations, charitable partners, and other stakeholders. T

he council also pledges to continue working closely with organisations such as Women in the Fire Service, the Asian Fire Service Association, and The Firefighters Charity.

The plan underscores the importance of learning from wider sectors and sharing good practices to shape their approach and products.

Governance within the Culture Action Plan

NFCC will seek independent scrutiny and expert advice from an Independent Challenge and Support panel, established to support the execution of this plan.

Internally, the work on culture and inclusion will be led by the NFCC People, Culture and Leadership Co-ordinating Committee, backed by the NFCC Safeguarding Board and NFCC Organisational Learning.

Regular progress reports will be made available on NFCC’s website to uphold transparency.

NFCC will also liaise with the Fire Standards Board, HMICFRS, Home Office, Local Government Association (LGA), National Employers, devolved administrations, and more to ensure progress against the action plan.

The Culture Action Plan expresses NFCC’s commitment to support fire and rescue services in their endeavour to create an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination, abuse, and harm.

NFCC acknowledges its role in confronting societal inequality and forms of oppression that may exist within Fire and Rescue Services.

The plan acknowledges that change and growth are not instant, signalling the beginning of a journey that demands continuous focus, collaboration, investment, and review.

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