There now seems to be some headway in creating a professional standards body for fire and rescue services in England as part of the governments fire reform programme. While some professional standards exist for fire and rescue services, there isn’t consistency being applied, creating gaps without national coordination being in place. Professional standards can define what good looks like and be a key component to drive continuous improvement, services then become even more professional by improving commonality, consistency and accountability and provide greater transparency and public assurance.
Last year a project board was created, comprising of the Home Office, Local Government Association, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and College of Policing, to oversee a sector led project team tasked with developing a business case and options for how these standards could be developed. Following consideration of this business case, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service has this week announced the creation of an independent Fire Standards Board.
The Fire Standards Board will have responsibility for: agreeing priorities and the workplan; oversight of standards in development; and approval of final standards produced. It is likely that the Board will have a paid independent chair and vice-chair, both of whom will be recruited through open competition.
The recently revised Fire and Rescue National Framework for England requires all fire and rescue authorities to implement the standards approved through this work. The management, delivery and maintenance of standards will be carried out by NFCC’s Central Programme Office who will expand to take on this work. The Central Programme Office will manage individual work programmes to deliver specific standards and every professional standard will also be subject to quality assessment and assurance through an independent assurance process.
As with the National Operational Guidance programme, the fire sector’s representative bodies will be extensively consulted and engaged during the development of standards. It is expected that the inspectorate (HMICFRS) will work closely with the Board; standards will be developed and refined over time incorporating learning obtained by HMICFRS during their inspections, and HMICFRS will in turn inspect using the latest standards.
Our understanding is that the initial standards could cover:
- workforce development within fire and rescue services (including leadership, professionalism, career pathways and development, multi-level entry and culture);
- mitigation of risk and strategic deployment of resources;
- prevention and protection from fires and other emergencies;
- business continuity and resilience to fires and other emergencies.
Based on the experiences of delivering the National Operational Guidance programme, it is envisaged the creation of the full suite of professional standards may take up to five years before moving to their ongoing maintenance.
As a key stakeholder the RFU will play an active role within the formulation of the standards and will provide further information to our members later this year.