By: Pramod Thomas
A new report has found evidence of racism, sexism and homophobia in at least 11 of the 44 fire and rescue services (FRSs) in UK, reported the Times.
The report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) also revealed that misogyny, racism and homophobia were regarded as banter by some in the services.
The work culture in fire services was described as an ‘old boys’ club’, and in one incident a senior officer referred to a black colleague using the N-word and dismissed it as ‘having a laugh’.
In another incident, two male firefighters acted out raping a female colleague. Homophobic abuse was graffitied on a firefighter’s locker in a third example.
According to the HMICFRS report, there were also social media posts by popular, unofficial fire and rescue-specific accounts which appeared to portray misogyny, racism and homophobia as banter.
Based on the findings, the report has put forward 35 recommendations, five of which focused on reforming the background checking processes.
The Home Office and Ministry of Justice ensure fire and rescue employees are eligible for appropriate Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS ) checks. Fire and rescue services should have specific minimum requirements for all roles, particularly those where staff interact with vulnerable members of the public.
“I was absolutely shocked by some of the findings. Some of the things we found I thought were from the dim and distant past,” Roy Wilsher, HM inspector of fire and rescue services, was quoted as saying by the Times.
The report urged to implement confidential processes for raising concerns, 360-degree feedback, increased diversity monitoring and the creation of a national list of staff that have been dismissed from the service for gross misconduct, including past cases.
An independent culture review last November reported staff searching through women’s drawers looking for underwear and sex toys during home fire-safety visits.
The latest report identified causes of concern in five services, inadequate grades or improvement requirements for 26 services and 72 additional areas for improvement across 32 services.
In 17 services that received inadequate or necessary improvement grades for their values and culture, 15 per cent of staff reported experiencing bullying or harassment and 20 per cent reported experiencing discrimination, higher than in services with good or outstanding grades.
Wilsher urged to diversify the workforce and implement the recommendations without delay.
The report identified particular concerns about a lack of action being taken against reported discrimination or bullying, and staff feeling unsafe to report these incidents.
The report revealed that in half of misconduct allegations victim had left the service, often retiring or resigning before procedures took place. There was a perception among staff that women were appointed based on their gender rather than on their skills and qualifications.
“It continues to concern me that some members of the service don’t treat each other or members of the public with respect and in some cases, have intentionally caused harm. It is time for this behaviour to stop,” Wilsher said.