Culture & Behaviours
London Fire Brigade launches external review of its culture
The London Fire Brigade has announced that it has opened an independently-led external review of its culture.
The London Fire Brigade’s organisation-wide review follows after an internal investigation which the brigade conducted after a 21-year-old firefighter, Jaden Francois-Esprit, took his own life in August last year. In February 2021, the Coroner conducting the inquest into Jaden’s death advised LFB to take steps to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
The aim of the review is to put together a clear set of clear actions which will aim to ensure that firefighters are better supported, from trainee level and throughout their career, and feel more able to bring their whole selves to work.
London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said: “I believe that working on a fire station is one of the most rewarding jobs in the country. However, we need to do better at supporting our firefighters and celebrating the fact that they come from every walk of life, reflecting the vibrant city we serve. Our internal investigation into Jaden’s death, and the inquest, unearthed tough questions about how we train young firefighters and introduce them to station life.
“There is a significant programme of work in this review. I firmly believe that it will result in a better experience for firefighters in London and a better Brigade for the Londoners we proudly serve.”
The Brigade believes that an independently-led, external review is the most robust way to build a better Brigade.
The internal investigation into Jaden’s death looked at processes and the nature of interpersonal relationships and resulted in a number of recommendations to improve LFB workplace culture.
Brigade data shows that firefighters from African, Caribbean and Asian backgrounds or with English as a second language are statistically much less likely to be promoted, more likely to be subject to formal and informal discipline, and more likely to be re-coursed as a trainee. Additionally, women are underrepresented at all levels of Brigade’s operational workforce, and around two-thirds of its lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender colleagues do not feel comfortable disclosing their identity at work.
Deterioration in mental health
A recent study, conducted by Mind’s re-launched Blue Light Programme, has claimed that 65% of the UK’s fire and rescue service personnel have seen a deterioration in their mental health during the pandemic.
The data revealed that mental health has worsened across all 999 services, with 20% of fire service personnel today rating their mental health as either poor or very poor.
Funded by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Blue Light Programme brings together The Fire Fighters Charity, The Ambulance Staff Charity, Police Care UK and Mind to further the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s emergency responders.
Speaking of the research, Dr Jill Tolfrey, Chief Executive of The Fire Fighters Charity said: “We commend Mind and the Blue Light Programme on the publication of this latest research, which once again highlights the incredible pressures faced by those who work across our fire and rescue services.
“COVID-19 has amplified these pressures for many on the frontline and brought new mental health challenges for others. As ever, our role at The Fire Fighters Charity is to ensure that we are always here for those in need. While we have had to move our mental health services online during the pandemic, we have supported thousands through virtual consultations over the past year and will continue to do so, while also bringing back our face-to-face services over the weeks to come.
“My message to anyone facing a challenge to their mental wellbeing today is therefore simple. We are here for you. Please pick up the phone or get in touch through our website and we will do whatever we can to help you.”
Members of the fire and rescue services in need of support with their mental wellbeing can call The Fire Fighters Charity’s Support Line on 0800 3898820 or visit www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/support.
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