Covid-19 and the Fire and Rescue Service
The spread of Covid-19 across the country has brought unprecedented challenges and everyone is being called upon to play their part to reduce its spread and save lives. Firefighters and our frontline emergency services have done incredible work responding to the coronavirus outbreak and are leading community efforts to support the most vulnerable and other emergency services. We are grateful to all the firefighters who are working though this difficult time with commitment and courage. We have been working closely with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to ensure that services have everything they need to carry out their critical role and to keep people safe.
The fire and rescue services’ focus is on ensuring that essential functions are maintained. Alongside this, NFCC reached an agreement with employers and the Fire Brigades Union to allow firefighters to provide support to the ambulance service, to coroners and to the vulnerable.
Financial Support to FRAs
The Government is doing all it can to ensure fire and rescue services have the resources and support they need to carry out their vital roles and to keep people safe.
In 2020-21, Home Office set up the £16m Covid-19 Contingency Fund to support Fire and Rescue Authorities with additional costs relating to Covid-19, such as services volunteering to support community response to the pandemic, and the cost of PPE items and station cleaning.
Following two rounds of applications, a total of 16 Fire and Rescue Authorities received around £7m in grant payments from the fund to reimburse additional costs they incurred as a result of Covid-19. An additional £8 million was also distributed from the fund between all Fire and Rescue Authorities in England according to fire funding formula shares.
The Government has also provided £7.2 billion of un-ringfenced funding to local authorities to support their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Standalone fire and rescue authorities (including Greater Manchester Fire) received £6.5 million in March 2020 and a further £28.5m in May 2020.
County councils and unitary authorities with fire responsibilities have also received a share of the £7.2 billion, but they received this as part of a wider allocation that reflects the totality of their local government responsibilities. It is a matter for the parent authority to decide how much additional funding to allocate to the fire and rescue service in their area.
Home Office will continue monitoring Covid-19 pressures and the sufficiency of existing funding in Fire and Rescue Authorities with support from the NFCC Technical Team in the course of 2021-22.
HMICFRS Covid Inspection
The Home Secretary has asked HMICFRS to carry out an inspection of all 45 fire and rescue services to focus on FRA’s response to Covid-19 including:
• what is working well and what is being learnt;
• how the fire sector is responding to the Covid-19 crisis;
• how fire services are dealing with the problems they face; and
• what changes are likely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The inspection took place from September - November 2020 and they published a report in December 2020, alongside individual letters to each service on HMICFRS’ findings: