Second Round of Inspections for Fire and Rescue Services
The first tranche of Round 2 inspections have now begun virtually. The first reports are due to be published by the end of the year, with every service inspected by the end of 2022. While the inspections will cover the three pillars (effectiveness, efficiency and people) as Round 1, there is a particular focus on direction of travel and how each service has responded to the causes of concern and areas for improvements given in their first inspection. Since the turn of the year, HMICFRS has also completed a number of revisits to review progress made by some services against their causes of concern. HMICFRS have also slightly improved their methodology on equality and protection issues.
Recent HMICFRS Fire Reports
HMICFRS have published three major reports on fire in 2021.
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. Main finding: fire and rescue services responded well to the pandemic, supported communities beyond their normal duties but barriers across the sector prevented services from doing more. Further information can be found at: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/responding-to-the-pandemic-fire-and-rescue-service-response-covid-19-pandemic-2020.pdf .
Grenfell Tower Inquiry Report (published on 12 February) - The Home Secretary requested the Inspectorate review London Fire Brigade’s progress on implementing Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations. Main finding: LFB has made some progress but has been slow to identify issues around internal assurance. Further information can be found at: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/inspection-london-fire-brigade-progress-implement-recommendations-grenfell-tower-inquiry-phase-1.pdf .
The State of Fire and Rescue 2020 (published on 17 March) – This is the Chief inspector’s - Sir Thomas Winsor’s - annual assessment of fire and rescue services in England. The report highlighted the importance of on-call firefighters, equality and diversity in the fire service must be improved and strong leadership is needed to implement reforms. Key message: was the continued need for fundamental reform of the fire sector. Further information can be found at: State of Fire and Rescue – The Annual Assessment of Fire and Rescue Services in England 2020 - HMICFRS (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk)
Background to fire inspections
The Home Office appointed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (as then was) in summer 2017 to be the new inspectorate of fire and rescue services in England. This was in addition to their policing role. There had been no independent inspection of fire and rescue services for over a decade. The inspection programme and framework focuses on three main questions around effectiveness, efficiency and people. The gradings that can be awarded by HMICFRS are: outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate. Where HMICFRS identify a serious 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 fire inspections, including gradings and inspection reports for each service can be found on their website at Fire and Rescue - HMICFRS (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk).