Equality and diversity: principles into practice: over one hundred participants drawn from all sectors attended and contributed to the highly interactive workshop sessions on equality and diversity at the LGA Fire Conference in March, where it soon became clear that there are still many issues to be resolved.(Diversity Seminar)

THE TWO DIVERSITY AND equality workshops held at this year's LGA Fire Conference in Cheshire in March (see FIRE March pg 13) were entitled Principles Into Practice and were chaired by Les Byron, Chair of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

Diversity Progress

Delegates attended from fire and rescue authorities and services, other elected members, senior managers, union officials and government officials from the ODPM.

The workshops sought to tease out and explore the many issues still facing the Fire and Rescue Service and to identify points for further consideration. It was evident that there is still desire to see success in the management of diversity in the Service but tempered by the realisation that there are still many issues left unresolved.

A number of delegates pointed to the obvious lack of progress of the FRS compared to other uniformed services. Whilst accepting that the other services did have a longer tradition for women within their ranks, it was still the case that from that basis and a similar position as the Fire and Rescue Service regarding BME establishment, the police, ambulance and prison services had far out-performed fire in attracting and retaining new people.

The challenges for delegates were seen as falling into two dear areas: leadership and culture, and the crossover and impact of one on the other.

Many felt that elected members have a vital role in providing leadership, commitment and resources if we are to achieve on this agenda. This is a common commentary in the many reports on equality and diversity in the Fire Service.

Whilst the rhetoric is often there, there remains reluctance by some members to fully realise their potential and their position as employers to make a difference. Delegates identified that training for elected members was needed but also that many attempts to provide such training have failed and a new approach was dearly needed if members are to fill the leadership vacuum

Leadership 'Champion' Role

It was agreed that senior Fire Service managers have a definite leadership role to play and need to play the 'champion' role more willingly The FRS needs to ensure that its 'ambassadors' at cultural events and the like are the right ones--its representatives must be willing participants who support the Service aims to make it a more diverse organisation. …

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