Inspection of fire and rescue services in England is carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
The Home Office appointed inspectors in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (as then was) with additional responsibility in summer 2017 to also inspect fire and rescue services in England. This was in addition to their policing role. Previously, there had been no independent inspection of fire and rescue services for over a decade, only a peer review system where services could determine what is considered and by whom.
HMICFRS’ Fire Inspection Pillars and Graded Judgements
The inspection programme and framework focuses on 3 main questions:
- Effectiveness - how effective is the service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks;
- Efficiency - how efficient is it; and
- People - how well does the service look after its people.
The markings that can be awarded by HMICFRS are outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate.
HMICFRS’ inspection programme can be found here.
HMICFRS Inspection - Areas of Improvement and Causes of Concern
Where HMICFRS identifies an aspect of a fire and rescue service’s practice, policy or performance that falls short of the expected standard, it will be reported as an area of improvement.
Where HMICFRS identify a serious or critical shortcoming in a service, they will identify it as a cause of concern. This is accompanied by one or more recommendations where HMICFRS will recommend that the service does something to alleviate the issue and this will be tracked through an action plan and revisits, which are essential in providing assurance on progress in a service.
Further information on the inspection programme, questions, graded judgements and areas for improvement and causes of concern can be found here.
HMICFRS Fire and Rescue Reports Published in 2021
HMICFRS has published three major reports on fire in 2021.
The COVID-19 inspections report (published on 22 January) – This inspection was commissioned by the Home Secretary to examine fire and rescue services’ response to COVID-19. The main finding was that fire and rescue services responded well to the pandemic supporting communities beyond their normal duties, but barriers across the sector prevented services from doing more. Further information can be found here.
Grenfell Tower Inquiry Report (published on 12 February) - The Home Secretary requested the Inspectorate review London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) progress in implementing Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations. At the time of the inspection, the main finding was that LFB has made some progress but has been slow to identify issues around internal assurance. Further information can be found here. More information on LFB's self reported progress can be found here.
The State of Fire and Rescue 2020 (published on 17 March) – This is the Chief Inspector’s (Sir Thomas Winsor) annual assessment of fire and rescue services in England. The report highlighted the good work of services, but the continued need for reform. Further information can be found here.
Round 1 HMICFRS Inspection reports for each Fire and Rescue Services
HMICFRS published the first set of individual inspection reports for all fire and rescue services in 2018/19. These provide performance information for each service.
Round 2 of Fire Inspections in progress
Following the completion of the first full round of fire inspections in December 2019, HMICFRS began round 2 of inspections earlier in 2021. The first reports for tranche 1 are due to be published in December 2021, with every service inspected by the end of 2022. Since the turn of the year, HMICFRS has also completed a number of revisits to review progress made by services who have been given a cause of concern.
Further information on HMICFRS’ Fire Inspection Programme
Further information on HMICFRS’ fire inspections can be found on their website.