Citizen focus--what does it mean for the fire and rescue service?(CITIZEN FOCUS)

September the 11th and the fire dispute brought the fire and rescue service closer to the top of the government agenda. We have seen a massive modernisation programme--one that continues as government consults on new dimensions to the service such as the Centre of Excellence and the fire and rescue service Equality and Diversity Strategy. Where once we were the forgotten service, now we are more in the forefront of the mind of central government.

The jury is out though, on whether we will continue to be politically 'remembered' as a dynamic and significant service. What is certain is that if we do not involve ourselves in every critical sphere of influence, we will drop off the government radar--dismissed as less important in the ever competing world of public services.

Citizens are voters and what the citizen perceives as important will be where the emphasis is politically--ergo where the fire and rescue service should place itself. We should be looking for the levers that will secure long term influence and support.

This article is designed to start that important debate within the fire and rescue service. It will review where we can make a positive impact upon the citizens' agenda, but also review the fire and rescue service holistically, looking at the areas we work within, how we should be influencing each of those areas and where we may need further work done. The Chief Fire Officers' Association's role will be to keep the fire and rescue service on the government's agenda, and to ensure that as a service we work together to bring a huge range of benefits to society.


So what is the 'citizen's' agenda? The citizen's focus stays relatively balanced, even during times of upheaval. That would suggest a change of focus, for example during times of war or periods of industrial action. Security, education, health, crime and disorder are always the key issues along with--as the nation's average age increases--older people.

In all these areas, the fire and rescue service is able to play an effective role in influencing the citizen's life.

The development of the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) and the increasing role of Local Area Agreements (LAA) are designed to focus the public sector on the citizen--what the citizen wants in the 'place' where they live. At a local level, we need to be an integral partner in citizens' lives. The government agenda is more than just partnership working on specific projects and issues. It is about working continually together at every level. It is about the police and the education department working together to understand why the child who is being picked up for truancy is having difficulties at school. It is about the social care and health services linking their knowledge of the child to understand the complete picture, making sure the child does not fall through the gaps. It is about the fire and rescue service helping to address the problems of anti-social young people through specific courses.

This improvement in the cohesiveness of society will bring about greater wellbeing for citizens. It will provide more joined up services for those people who are poor, disadvantaged and in the most need. These are the most likely victims of fire as well as being key 'clients' of other public services. …

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