Agenda item

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan 2017-2020, Functional Priorities 2018/19, Quarter 3 & Quarter4 update

To consider Report CFO/025/19 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning an update on:


(a)  The agreed Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (E,D&I) Action Plan for 2018/19 Quarters 3 and 4.


(b)  The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Objectives for 2018/19, as at 31st March 2019.


Members considered Report CFO/025/19 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning an update on:


(a)  The agreed Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (E,D&I) Action Plan for 2018/19 Quarters 3 and 4.


(b)  The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Objectives for 2018/19, as at 31st March 2019.


Members were provided with a detailed overview of the report; and for the benefit of newly appointed Members, some background information regarding the introduction of an Equality and Diversity Action Plan, to ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion became embedded across the organisation.


Members were informed that the progress to date against the current 3 year Action Plan – 2017 - 2020, was detailed within Appendix A to the report. They were advised that progress has been made against all but one of the actions, which has subsequently been removed due to no longer being relevant; and some specific actions were highlighted to Members.


Members were advised that our work with faith communities, has enabled us to build relationships; and has been mutually beneficial with regards to ensuring access to communities.


In relation to work around knowing our communities, it was highlighted to Members that this has enabled MFRA to ensure that they are receiving the right information and data to enable us to target our resources effectively.


With regards to tension monitoring, Members were advised that following the terror attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, members of the Arson Team and Home Safety Advocates visited several Mosques across Merseyside, to provide re-assurance.


Members were also informed that all of our Community Fire Stations are Safe Haven’s; and have defibrillators available and accessible to the community.


Further areas highlighted, were around our work internally with staff, to develop and expand our staff networks; and the appointment of an Equality and Diversity Advisor, to provide training to our staff, to ensure that they are equipped to work within our communities.


Members were then provided with an overview of Appendix B to the report, which details progress against Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Objectives for year 2.


Members were advised that Objective 1 is around the diversity of the organisation as a whole, with information broken down by various role type. It was highlighted that improvements have been made across all areas with regards to increasing diversity.


Objective 2 is around ensuring that people from diverse communities receive equitable services that meet their needs. Members were advised of the need to ensure that we are reaching all communities through the delivery of HFSC’s; and it was highlighted that as part of the consultation around the alternative Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) proposals, views were sought on tackling issues around socio-economic disadvantage. Members were informed that there are real pockets of deprivation across Merseyside; and although the HFSC strategy has focused around individuals over the age of 65, there are a significant number of fires occurring within areas with the highest level of deprivation, which have a significant impact on those communities. Therefore, consideration is being given as to whether more resources should be targeted towards areas of high deprivation.


Information regarding young people attending MFRA Youth Engagement programmes, was also highlighted to Members.


With regards to Objective 3 around reducing fires and other incidents amongst the vulnerable protected groups, it was re-iterated to Members that previously, the focus has been around targeting individuals over the age of 65. However, there also needs to be a focus around deprivation.


In relation to Objective 4 around ensuring that staff are equipped to deliver their roles, Members were informed that this is re-enforced by the recruitment of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, who will be delivering training to all employees, as well as Authority Members.


Members were informed that Objective 5 is around achieving and maintaining excellence against a Fire & Rescue Service Equality Framework, with MFRA committed to continue its positive work around the E,D&I agenda.


The Chair of the Authority advised Members that they all have a personal responsibility for E,D&I, which is taken very seriously amongst leading authorities.


Questions were raised by Members around the results of the most recent staff survey, in particular the greatest declines being around MFRA being a better place to work than it was 3 years ago; and around change management.


Members were informed that there were no surprises in relation to the staff survey outcomes; with issues around culture being replicated across the sector; and forming a focus of the first tranche of HMICFRS Inspections. 

They were also informed that creating an organisation that is more reflective of the communities we serve, is work in progress; and that Officers would be happy for Members to scrutinise this in more detail if they so wished.


The Chair of the Authority commented that the Station Visits are a good opportunity to hear from frontline staff and to have discussions around cultural issues. He also commented that morale across all local authorities is pretty low at present.


Further questions were raised by Members in relation to female recruitment and retention; and the potential impact of duty systems on this.


Members were advised that as the fire and rescue service is an emergency service, required 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, ultimately, we require firefighters in place to do their role. This can create some challenges in terms of managing the impact of duty system changes on staff. Members were provided with a brief explanation of the duty systems; and it was highlighted that the day crewing duty system introduced recently,  has a positive organisational impact, as it provides individuals with more options.

Members were advised that we do have policies and procedures in place for dealing with individual circumstances, such as carer responsibilities; and exploring flexible working options.


A further question was raised by Members with regards to the gender pay gap; and what steps are being taken to reduce the gap.


Members were advised that it is an historic position. The Chief Fire Officer advised that the first female firefighter within MFRA, was on the recruit course before his, following which, there was a significant reduction in recruitment for many years. This has limited the opportunity to increase the numbers of female firefighters into the organisation. In addition, the position is exasperated by the fact that firefighters are generally better paid than support staff; and as the majority of firefighters are male, the gap is increased further. However, it was clarified to Members that there is no differential between pay for the same role.

Members were also informed that as we are now recruiting again and have been doing so for a few years, we are actively trying to diversify the workforce, which should hopefully help to start reducing the gap.


Members were also informed that there is still a challenge around the progression of female firefighters; and ensuring that they feel able to progress up the organisation, giving females the same aspirations as males.


Members Resolved that:


The content of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion progress report and progress against the Equality Objectives, be noted.  



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