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Derbyshire 2021/22

People

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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Requires improvement

Overall, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

The service continues to have a positive working culture and staff feel valued and included. The behaviours the service expects, and the values it promotes, are understood and displayed by nearly all staff.

There is good provision of health and well-being support, and absence is well managed. Mental health training is available, but the service should consider providing this to all staff. There is a policy for monitoring working hours and rest periods for those on dual contracts, however the service should ensure this is applied consistently.

The service has a positive learning culture, and training opportunities are available to support staff. However, some training provision could be increased, and workforce planning should be more effective.

The service has had some success increasing diversity of its workforce with recruitment campaigns. However, it needs to explain more clearly to staff the process and benefits of a more diverse workforce.

In our last inspection in 2019, we identified that the service needs a transparent promotion process and should identify and support staff with potential to become leaders. More improvement is still required in these areas.

Questions for People

1

How well does the FRS promote its values and culture?

Good

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at promoting the right values and culture.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was outstanding in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have positive and inclusive cultures, modelled by the behaviours of their senior leaders. Health and safety should be promoted effectively, and staff should have access to a range of well-being support that can be tailored to their individual needs.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should take early action to monitor working hours (including overtime) to improve staff well-being.
  • The service should make sure that annual fitness testing takes place consistently across the service.

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

There is a positive culture and service values are well known

The service continues to have well-defined values that are understood by staff. Our staff survey showed 98 percent of respondents (210 out of 214) were aware of the service values. The new national Core Code of Ethics has been introduced and staff have been trained on how this supplements service values.

Staff we spoke to were consistently proud to work for the service. Senior leaders act as role models and are visible to staff. They communicate well and are open to feedback and challenge.

There is a positive working culture throughout the service, with staff empowered and willing to challenge poor behaviours when they encounter them. However, some staff told us they feel less able to challenge if they are trying for promotion. Of the respondents to our staff survey, 28 percent (60 out of 214) said they disagree, or tend to disagree, that they can challenge ideas without experiencing detrimental treatment afterwards.

Behaviours that reflect service values are shown at all levels of the service, although during inspection we were given a few examples of poor attitude and behaviour that did not align to service values.

Staff have access to services that support their physical and mental health

The service continues to have well understood and effective well-being policies in place that are available to staff. A significant range of well-being support is available to support both physical and mental health. For example, staff can access physiotherapy and counselling. Support is also given to staff who attend traumatic incidents, including control room staff.

There are good provisions in place to promote staff well-being. This includes a dedicated well-being section on the staff intranet, a health and well-being officer, and champions for mental health. Staff reported they understand and have confidence in the well-being support processes available. Our survey showed that most staff are having regular conversations about well-being with their line manager, and it is included in annual appraisals.

There has been an increase in staff absence due to mental ill-health and the service does not have a specific plan to address this. Mental health training is available but not compulsory to attend. Some line managers we spoke to hadn’t received training and would welcome it to help them support their staff.

The health and safety culture within the service is positive

The service has effective and well understood health and safety policies and procedures in place. Staff routinely report accidents and near misses and these are investigated. The service is taking action to ensure all equipment has a risk assessment.

The service’s policies and procedures are readily available and effectively promoted to all staff. Both staff and representative bodies have confidence in the health and safety approach taken by the service. However, we found low compliance with health and safety training. The service should ensure that all staff receive relevant health and safety training for their role.

Working hours and rest periods are not consistently monitored

The service has a monitoring process for staff who have secondary employment or dual contracts to make sure they comply with the secondary employment policy and don’t work excessive hours. Despite having a policy in place, on-call staff told us they are working more than their contracted hours. Staff with dual contracts told us there is no monitoring of their working hours and rest periods. We found line managers are inconsistently reporting on working hours and rest periods. The service should ensure that staff are taking appropriate rest.

The service should review the quality assurance process for fitness testing

The service has a fitness policy and a process in place to test operational fitness. As of March 2021, 62 percent of operational staff had completed an annual fitness test in the previous year.

However, the process to quality-assure annual fitness tests carried out on fire stations should be reviewed, to make sure that staff fitness is being managed fairly across the service.

There is a clear process to manage absence

As part of our inspection, we reviewed some case files to consider how the service manages and supports staff through absence including sickness, parental and special leave.

We found there are clear processes in place to manage absences for all staff. There is clear guidance for managers, who are confident in the process. Absences are managed well and in accordance with policy. However, files held centrally did not record the contact that line managers have with staff who are absent, and some return-to-work interviews exceeded the policy time frame.

2

How well does the FRS get the right people with the right skills?

Requires improvement

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at getting the right people with the right skills.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services should have a workforce plan in place that is linked to their integrated risk management plans (IRMPs), sets out their current and future skills requirements and addresses capability gaps. They should supplement this with a culture of continuous improvement that includes appropriate learning and development throughout the service.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure its workforce plan takes full account of the necessary skills and capabilities to carry out the integrated risk management plan.
  • The service should make sure that there is a consistent method of recording and monitoring all non-safety critical training.

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

Workforce planning arrangements should be more effective

The service does some workforce planning, but it still doesn’t take full account of the skills and capabilities it needs to be able to effectively meet the needs of its IRMP. This was an area for improvement identified in our last inspection. We found limited evidence that the service’s planning allows it to fully consider workforce skills and overcome any gaps in capability. Positively, additional water rescue training has been given to staff because of an increase in water-related incidents. More staff are also being trained in fire safety to support the protection team.

However, the service doesn’t have the full establishment of staff it says it needs and is predicting a 25 percent reduction in on-call staff. There has been a high turnover of staff since our last inspection and most middle managers are new in role. Staff told us they have had difficulty recruiting people to fill vacant posts.

The service recognises it needs to do more to improve how it considers its future needs and succession planning. The corporate risk register records staffing gaps so these can be monitored and reported on. We were told the service plans to improve staff retention and capability through more training and development opportunities.

Although there is a system in place to review workforce capabilities, it could be improved as there is a risk that staff may lack important skills for the future. Staff told us additional skills in change management would be useful.

There is a positive culture for learning and improvement

A culture of continuous improvement is promoted throughout the service and staff are encouraged to learn and develop. Development plans are used to support staff, who can request additional training. Staff told us they feel well trained for carrying out their roles.

We are pleased to see that the service has a range of learning and development resources in place. These include, e-learning resources, training from external providers for mental health awareness, and budgets for managerial courses and qualifications.

Some training provision could be increased to support staff

We reviewed training records and there was high compliance with risk-critical training such as breathing apparatus and incident command. Training instructors visit stations and support risk-critical, station-based training.

Some training is available at weekends to support on-call staff. However, most on-call staff we spoke to would welcome more flexibility with training provision to help them attend out of normal working hours.

Supervisory managers at fire stations conduct training drills and exercises and assure the operational competence of staff. The service should ensure this is being carried out consistently.

The service recognises that training for control staff needs to be improved. It is reviewing resources within control to provide increased training time and better align training to national occupational standards.

Training is available to support line managers in managing their staff, although we found this is not mandatory at all levels. There is no refresh programme for managerial training. Most managers we spoke to would like more training to help them manage staff effectively.

Monitoring of non-risk-critical training needs to be improved

The service uses multiple systems to record all types of training, and these do not align. We identified this as an area for improvement in our previous inspection. A new HR system has been purchased to address this, although this was not in place at the time of the inspection.

During inspection we identified poor compliance with non-risk-critical training. Only 25 percent of on-call staff and 40 percent of wholetime staff have attended manual handling training. Only 5 percent of middle managers hold a health and safety qualification. Equality in the workplace e-learning has been completed by 115 out of 918 staff.

3

How well does the FRS ensure fairness and promote diversity?

Requires improvement

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at ensuring fairness and promoting diversity.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Creating a more representative workforce will provide huge benefits for fire and rescue services. This includes greater access to talent and different ways of thinking, and improved understanding of and engagement with their local communities. Each service should make sure equality, diversity and inclusion are firmly understood and demonstrated throughout the organisation. This includes successfully taking steps to remove inequality and making progress to improve fairness, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the service. It should proactively seek and respond to feedback from staff and make sure any action taken is meaningful.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should identify and overcome barriers to equal opportunity, so that its workforce better represents its community. This includes making sure staff understand the value of positive action and having a diverse workforce.
  • The service should make sure that all staff are trained in equality, diversity and inclusion.

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

The service seeks feedback and challenge

The service has developed several ways to engage with staff on issues and decisions that affect them. This includes a cultural survey and staff engagement forums where staff can ask senior leaders questions. Of the respondents to our staff survey, 71 percent (151 out of 214) agree or tend to agree they are confident in systems to provide feedback to all levels.

An action plan for improvement is produced from the cultural survey results and this is discussed with staff at engagement days. Representative bodies and staff associations reported that the service engages with them well and this is meaningful.

Procedures are in place to tackle bullying, harassment, and discrimination

Staff have a good understanding of what bullying, harassment and discrimination are and their negative effect on colleagues and the organisation.

In this inspection, 18 out of 214 staff survey respondents told us they had been bullied or harassed and 28 had been discriminated against over the past 12 months. Of these, only 7 reported the bullying or harassment and 13 reported the discrimination to the service.

While most staff are confident in the service’s approach to tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination, grievances and disciplinary matters, we found some evidence of inappropriate comments towards staff not being challenged by colleagues or management.

Although the service has clear policies and procedures in place, it should ensure that all staff feel confident to report concerns and that any poor behaviour is dealt with appropriately.

The service could do more to increase diversity at all levels of the workforce

The service knows it needs to do more to increase diversity at all levels in the workforce.

It has had success with recruiting more female firefighters through recruitment campaigns. On 31 March 2021, 22.1 percent of the workforce was female. The England average is 17.9 percent.

Disappointingly, there has been slow progress in improving the number of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. On 31 March 2021, 2.4 percent of the workforce was self-declared as being from ethnic minority backgrounds. The local population is 6.7 percent, and the England average is 5.3 percent.

The service recognises it needs to encourage female applicants and applicants from diverse backgrounds into middle and senior-level positions.

More progress is needed to improve EDI

The service is committed to EDI and has an inclusion strategy with an annual action plan. The inclusion board has been disbanded since our last inspection and progress against the strategy is now managed through a new people performance board. The service should ensure the new board is effective at making progress. Since our last inspection two inclusion officer vacancies arose and there was a delay in recruiting to these posts.

We are pleased that the service collects some diversity data from the community and staff, although this could be more consistent and used more effectively.

Positively, we found staff generally feel a sense of inclusion and belonging at work. There are staff networks in place that support staff and raise awareness of gender, sexuality and race. They also support reservist staff, menopause and well-being.

The service has improved its process to assess equality impact and has trained staff to complete assessments. However, some procedures are not being assessed. For example, recruitment, positive action and promotion procedures don’t have current assessments and the service could be missing opportunities to improve equality.

The service makes e-learning training available to staff, covering equality in the workplace and the Equality Act. However, this is not compulsory and as previously mentioned it has not been completed by all staff. There has also been no race awareness training.

During inspection, some staff could not explain what positive action is or give examples of how it is being used to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. Disappointingly, some staff we spoke to had negative views about the use of positive action.

We found that exit interviews could be used more consistently and effectively by the service to identify whether EDI-related issues have had an impact on staff.

4

How well does the FRS manage performance and develop leaders?

Requires improvement

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at managing performance and developing leaders.

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

Fire and rescue services should have robust and meaningful performance management arrangements in place for their staff. All staff should be supported to meet their potential, and there should be a focus on developing staff and improving diversity into leadership roles.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure the selection and promotion process is fair and improve transparency to promote trust and confidence.
  • The service should put in place an open and fair 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.

The service manages individual’s performance

There is a good performance management system in place which allows the service to effectively develop and assess the individual performance of all staff. For example, the annual appraisal includes well-being, development and aspirations. We are pleased that firefighters now have an individual appraisal.

Personal development plans are also used to help staff develop in their current role and prepare for future progression.

Through our staff survey, most staff reported that they have regular discussions with their manager and that they were meaningful. Each staff member has individual goals and objectives, and regular assessments of performance. Staff feel confident in the performance and development arrangements that are in place.

However, during inspection we found some staff had not yet had an appraisal for this year and not all staff had one last year. The service should ensure that appraisals are being completed. There is currently no central monitoring of completed appraisals to identify any trends or quality-assure performance discussions.

Promotion and progression processes still need to improve

The service has made some progress to make sure its promotion and progression processes are fair. This was an area for improvement in our last inspection. A promotion planning group has been introduced and HR staff are assigned to promotion processes. Promotion toolkits are available to support recruiting managers and staff who are applying for promotion.

During our inspection we reviewed records of completed promotion processes. This showed that policy is followed where recruiting managers proactively involve HR staff, and the process is fair.

However, some recruiting managers do not involve a neutral party in the process to ensure fairness. We found one promotion process which did not adhere to policy and where there was no record of decision-making. Two processes lacked some evidence of fair decision-making at different stages of the process.

The service should review the process and ensure that the selection of candidates and decision-making is clearly recorded. Most staff we spoke to were not confident that the promotion process was fair and transparent.

The service doesn’t have strong succession planning processes in place to allow it to effectively manage the career pathways of its staff, including roles requiring specialist skills.

The service still needs to improve its ability to identify and develop its future leaders and high-potential staff at all levels

The service still needs to improve how it actively manages the career pathways of staff, including those with specialist skills and for leadership roles. There has been some progress in addressing this area for improvement, which we identified in our last inspection.

The service has introduced a career pathway for protection staff, provides career workshops that staff can choose to attend, and operational staff are given a personal development plan when they have been through the promotion process. Leadership training and qualifications are available.

There are limited opportunities for non-operational staff to progress. The service told us about its leadership framework, but staff told us there is no process to identify and support high-potential staff.

The service should consider putting in place more formal arrangements to identify and support members of staff to become senior leaders.