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Lincolnshire 2018/19


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

Last updated 20/12/2018
Requires improvement

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

The service needs to improve the ways in which it promotes the right values and culture. We are concerned that there are weaknesses in how it ensures staff have the right skills.

The service has recognised it needs to improve and is making some progress. For example, it is establishing a wellbeing and inclusion board to better understand the workforce’s needs; and it is making good use of a close working relationship with the police.

Staff feel supported in terms of their health and safety. Senior managers are described as visible and approachable. The service’s culture is described as friendly and people-focused. The workforce clearly take pride in their work.

However, we found several areas for improvement. These include:

  • access to specialist wellbeing provision;
  • on-call firefighters’ disconnectedness from senior management, the county council and the service’s values;
  • staff misunderstandings about the service’s values and the concepts behind them; and
  • inconsistent and unclear approaches taken towards resolution of grievances.

An area of particular concern is whether the service is doing all it can to make sure it has the right people with the right skills. We found:

  • inadequate systems for assuring that staff are competent in critical skills;
  • systems that fail to record all the training that staff have undertaken;
  • crew managers providing training at stations (despite not being suitably trained to do so); and
  • the service isn’t doing enough to ensure the make-up of its workforce is representative of the diversity of the community.

On-call firefighters only get a group personal development review annually, which concentrates on the station and not on individuals. Non-operational staff say the opportunities for promotion are limited.

The service says that it is looking at ways to improve the promotion process but notes that the funds to help staff develop are limited.

Questions for People


How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The service should improve its mechanisms for staff to access specialist wellbeing support.
  • The service should ensure its values and behaviours are understood and demonstrated at all levels of the organisation.

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

Workforce wellbeing

The service recently established a wellbeing and inclusion board (in April 2018) to bring together the focus on wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. The aim of the board is to provide signposting and resources for managers and staff to promote health and wellbeing. The board is not fully established yet but the service deems it a priority. As no additional funding for the board is available, the plans will mainly include better co-ordination and alignment of what is available already.

The service offers appropriate occupational health provision. But staff cannot self-refer. This may be an obstacle to people who don’t wish to discuss their concerns with a line manager. The county council provides a self-refer counselling service for all fire and rescue staff for mental health support, and telephone access to Mind (a specialist organisation that provides mental health support). But only one counsellor is available. If staff require specific treatment they are encouraged to utilise NHS services in the first instance.

The service is benefitting from its close working relationship with the police. It has access to the support of the police chaplaincy. It also led to a joint wellbeing conference in April 2017. This aimed to raise awareness of wellbeing in both organisations.

The service provides an early intervention facility, known as ‘defuse’, to be undertaken as soon as possible after an incident occurs. However, supervisory managers sometimes don’t refer their staff to this and have often relied on prompts from fire control or from their line manager to instigate ‘defuse’.

The service has provided all supervisory managers with welfare training to identify situations when further mental health support may be needed. If required, individuals can refer themselves to Mind. Despite receiving training, many supervisory managers were not confident in their ability to identify early the warning signs of mental health difficulties.

Health and safety

The service promotes health and safety messages in several ways to support its staff, for example, on the intranet, on station noticeboards and through safety flashes. Staff say they feel well supported in terms of their health and safety.

Although on-call firefighters have to pass the same physical fitness test as their wholetime colleagues, on-call stations have markedly less physical fitness equipment than wholetime stations. The service recognises this gap, and is reviewing its provision of physical training equipment.

Culture and values

Senior managers are well regarded by most wholetime staff. They describe them as visible and approachable. This is particularly true for staff based at the service headquarters building. The weekly chief officer group meetings with staff held across the county are also well regarded; staff value the opportunity to offer feedback to the senior team. But this sentiment is not shared by all staff, in particular on-call firefighters.

The service’s values are aligned to those within the county council. The service has compiled an organisational culture booklet that defines these values. All staff receive a copy of this booklet, which is available also on the service website.

Staff on the whole display a positive and friendly culture that is focused on people. However, we found that many staff do not understand the service’s values, or the concepts behind them. This is most notable among on-call firefighters. They describe themselves as disconnected from the senior management team at the service headquarters and the county council. On-call station staff say they feel a greater sense of identity with their local community than with the fire and rescue service. As a result, some on-call stations have developed their own values that they view as more relevant. Such locally developed values may well be commendable – but the risk is that they undermine the values of the wider service, hindering the development of an organisational culture.


How well trained and skilled are FRS staff?

Requires improvement

Cause of concern

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service needs to assure itself that it has systems in place for the effective recording and monitoring of training.


  • By 31 July 2019 the service must ensure that suitable operational training is provided, assessed and recorded accurately and assure itself that all operational staff are competent in risk-critical skills.

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

Workforce planning

The service has a suitable workforce plan, which contains clear guidance on career progression for individuals and on succession planning for the organisation. The plan has identified gaps within the organisation and the service has taken appropriate action to recruit new staff to ensure it has the capability to manage risks.

However, we are concerned that there are weaknesses in the area of training firefighters with the skills and competences they need to operate safely and effectively. Crew managers and, occasionally, the watch command support provide training at stations. We found that the crew managers are not suitably trained and skilled to give such training or to assess staff competences. They have received a ‘train the trainer’ session. But this focuses only on the skills needed to teach another person, not on proficiency in the matter being taught. Crew managers also update the individual training records after the session, despite not being suitably trained to assess skills. This means the service can’t assure itself that all staff are suitably trained to the level required to protect both the public and their own safety.

Learning and improvement

The process for recording training is confusing, leading to inconsistencies. Little confidence exists that the current process accurately records all the training that staff have undertaken. Until recently, the service used a training database to record training. But this did not provide suitable assurance that individuals had undertaken training and were competent in each skill set. To supplement this, business support officers in the training centre have been updating large spreadsheets of data to record safety-critical training. The officers use these to notify supervisory managers that members of their team need to refresh their safety-critical skills. Overall, the process is inefficient, cumbersome and importantly, could be unreliable as it risks recording inaccurate information.

Because of these difficulties, supervisory managers at stations also record training on local station systems, which have been developed independently and are neither co-ordinated or applied consistently. This does not provide the service with suitable oversight and assurance of competence which could increase the risk to the individual and the public.

The service is aware of these weaknesses and is developing a new competence recording system. This is expected to be in place by the end of 2018. In the meantime, to provide organisational oversight, the service has instructed all supervisory managers to record training on a shared drive. At present, safety-critical training is still being variously recorded on the database and on the business support spreadsheets.

There is a different approach for non-operational staff where their training and development is covered by county council policy. However, the service cannot confirm what training non-operational staff have received and what further training is required to confirm competency. The service has also recognised this as a weakness. The new training system is intended to record the training that non-operational staff have received.

The service recognises and rewards notable staff performance through an awards night, which is well regarded.


How well does the FRS ensure fairness and diversity?


Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity. But we found the following area in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The service should assure itself that it has effective grievance procedures.

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

Seeking and acting on staff feedback

Members of the workforce clearly take pride in working for the service. The most recent staff survey, carried out in 2017, showed that the job satisfaction was high and staff felt well supported by the organisation. Senior managers have taken actions to respond to the survey, developing these with assigned owners and communicating them across the service. Most staff expressed confidence in the survey process, and feel that results are communicated well.

Senior managers engage with the workforce when considering significant changes to policy or practice. Good examples of this are the consultations that were undertaken before medical co-responding was introduced, and before a team capable of responding to a marauding terrorist attack was set up.

We sampled some recently resolved grievance cases. We found the policy on managing grievances could be improved and in the cases we reviewed many did not comply with the service’s own policy. The service does not apply a fair, consistent approach to the resolution of grievances. Important information is missing from the policy on dealing with grievances, such as information on supporting staff through the process, or on who has the overall responsibility for monitoring it. Staff throughout the organisation showed little understanding of the process. Supervisory managers said they lacked training in managing grievances.


As at 31 March 2018, the percentage of female firefighters in the service is above the England rate but still not representative of the wider community. As at 31 March 2018 the percentage of firefighters coming from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background is 1.4 percent, which is below the local population of 2.4 percent.

The service has taken steps to address disproportionality in the recruitment of staff with protected characteristics. It has developed a positive action toolkit, produced recruitment materials in foreign languages and has used census data to better understand the profile of the local community. The service has a clear recruitment policy which supports the use of a broad range of strategies such as the use of positive action and open days. These strategies seek to promote a diverse workforce.

The service has also appointed equality, diversity and inclusion champions. These champions will hold regularly focus groups which will enable staff to express their views in a safe and open environment. The service also participates in the county council’s diversity steering group which ensures that the service has an effective way of making sure that it complies with their statutory duties.


How well does the FRS develop leadership and capability?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The service should put in place a specific process to identify, develop and support high potential staff and aspiring leaders.

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

Managing performance

The service does not apply personal development reviews (PDRs) consistently across the workforce. Wholetime staff get individual PDRs with their line managers each year. On-call firefighters only receive a group PDR annually. This concentrates on the station’s performance; it does not consider the development needs of individuals. The service accepts that individual PDRs would be better, and are available on request by individuals, but says it cannot achieve this service-wide because of the lack of capacity and resources.

Non-uniformed staff have individual PDRs, completed annually. However, non-uniformed staff with specialist skills in prevention and protection felt their opportunities for promotion within the service were limited. They perceive that their career progression is artificially capped because uniformed staff held all the senior roles, so they were not able to apply for them and did not value the PDR process.

Developing leaders

Uniformed staff can explain the process for promotion. They understand what they are required to do to progress to the next rank. Staff know where to look for information and support, if they want to apply for promotion. The service is exploring opportunities with the police to widen leadership development training.

The service has a core progression framework process but accepts that this does not enable it to identify and select high-potential staff. It recognises that funds to enable staff to develop are limited. As a result, staff are trained to be competent only in their current role. Staff also state they struggle to obtain approval to attend training courses outside their immediate roles.