Fire

Progress, penitence or procrastination? A number of themes emerged from the seminar, held during FIRE 2005, delegates were challenged: is there evidence of real progress on diversity issues in the service as the latest ODPM sponsored research tells us?(Diversity and Equality Workshop)

THE SEMINAR WAS CHAIRED BY Jagtar Singh, former Deputy Chief of Bedfordshire and Diversity Advisor at the ODPM. Delegates and speakers were asked to challenge the commitment and achievements that stakeholders in the Fire and Rescue Service claim. Managers, union officials, elected members and the ODPM joined in a frank debate that explored good practice and a range of widely divergent views, ranging from the optimistic to the despairing on diversity.

Delegates were asked: Is there evidence of real progress on diversity issues in the Service as the latest ODPM sponsored research tells us7 Or, is it as Sir Graham Meldrum rather paradoxically stated: "We are falling so far behind the other emergency services and the armed forces that we are in a league of our own!"

The first session was dedicated to reporting the widely contrasting findings of two important diversity research projects; Equality and Diversity matters, and FireWorks.

Pam Fox, a Principal Associate from the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV), presented the findings from Equality and Diversity Platters; Scoping examples of good practice to promote equality and diversity in the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). This study was sponsored by the ODPM and was designed to enhance the Service's own understanding of what it had achieved over recent years.

Stage one of the research aimed to discover an understanding and fostering innovation through the gathering of positive stories and images. This stage utilised a carefully developed set of questions and a process of dialogue, to uncover information about positive experiences. Once identified, these themes then contribute to a more in-depth look at particular initiatives.

Stage two was designed to uncover case studies and generate explanations for outcomes in different FRSs (rural/urban, combined/county etc.) The case studies uncovered the following themes:

* Respecting religious customs and beliefs;

* Tackling bullying and harassment;

* Respecting sexual orientation;

* Recruiting women firefighters;

* Recruiting black and minority ethnic firefighters;

* Recruiting people with disabilities;

* Retaining and supporting people with disabilities;

* Promoting community cohesion;

* Engaging with hard to reach groups;

* Partnership working for equality and diversity;

* Mainstreaming equality and diversity. …

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