London Fire Brigade has today published the outcome report of an Independent Culture Review, led by Nazir Afzal OBE, which was commissioned last year by the Commissioner, with the support of the Mayor.
Nazir and his team heard the experiences of over 2,000 current and former staff, and the public, including members of the Grenfell community. The report contains accounts of shockingly poor behaviour and painful experiences over many years.
Despite work by the Brigade to improve equality, diversity and inclusion, the report lays bare failings in the Brigade’s processes which means women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and members of the LGBT+ community have been more likely to experience poor treatment and do less well in their career.
Does not translate into its operations
The report confirms that the disadvantage and discrimination that affects Brigade staff does not translate into its operations and does not impact on the way the Brigade prevents and responds to incidents.
The Commissioner has announced immediate action in response to the testimonies, analysis and recommendations from the review, as part of a long-term programme to improve the Brigade’s culture.
Today is a very sobering day
London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said: “Today is a very sobering day. There is no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the Brigade and from today it will be completely clear to all staff what behaviour isn’t acceptable and what the consequences will be.
“I am deeply sorry for the harm that has been caused. I will be fully accountable for improving our culture and I fully accept all of the 23 recommendations.”
Independent Culture Review
Read the report and about the actions we’re taking.
Find out more
From today the Brigade is making immediate changes to provide increased protection for its staff. Anyone accused of discrimination, harassment and bullying will be suspended following a risk assessment, pending immediate investigation and dismissed if the accusation is upheld.
The report highlighted a lack of confidence in the Brigade’s current complaints procedure and showed that staff didn’t feel safe speaking up. Following the outcome of the review, the Brigade is introducing an External Complaints Service while internal processes are improved. Staff will be able to use the service to report poor behaviour rather than having to report it internally.
The Commissioner has introduced immediate changes to the Brigade’s approach to leadership. In the report, the Brigade’s leadership was described as disconnected and divided in their commitment to change and that they do not always display the behaviours asked of the staff. He has made it clear that leaders who do not value transparency, accountability and fairness will not have a place in the Brigade. All leaders will be undertaking inclusivity training, which has already begun, and from next month senior leaders will be visiting every watch and team to talk to staff about the review.
New central hub
The Brigade provides an essential emergency response and staff are frequently exposed to traumatic incidents. The report detailed that more support is needed for their mental health. From today staff will have access to help and support quickly – whenever they need it. A new central hub will be created on our intranet for mental health support. This will provide staff with access to 24/7 support in a crisis and access to the Brigade’s counselling and trauma support.
The Commissioner continued, “This report highlights many issues within the Brigade, and it also highlights examples of completely unacceptable behaviour from some of our staff when dealing with the public.
“These staff jeopardise not just the trust placed in us, but the safety of those who now might be dissuaded from requesting our help. We are introducing the use of body worn cameras for staff to provide the necessary reassurance.
“The big changes we’ve already made and will continue to make are needed to ensure we protect the people and communities who have suffered poor treatment. I also want to ensure a safe, modern workplace for the dedicated, public-spirited people at the Brigade who are rightly horrified by what this review has uncovered.
“I also want to ensure a safe, modern workplace for the dedicated, public-spirited people at the Brigade who, like me, are horrified by what this review has uncovered.
“We will challenge poor behaviour and do everything required to rebuild trust with our people and the communities we are here to serve. We will root out the people, systems and behaviours that discriminate against others and let the rest of us down.
“I hope these immediate changes will demonstrate that we understand the gravity of these issues and have immediately improved protection for our staff and the public. We have a huge amount of work to do to improve the working environment of our staff and rebuild trust with the public. I know that change can take time, but change starts today.”