Full inspection underway at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

The West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is undergoing a full eight-week inspection.

It has been almost three years since the last full inspection, which saw the service rated ‘requires improvement’ overall by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services – with two areas rated ‘inadequate’.

A lot of work has been carried out since then to bring things up to scratch.

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Follow-up inspections in January 2020 and February 2021 saw the service praised for the ‘significant’ and ‘tangible’ improvements which have been made under the guidance of Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

This latest inspection will cover the three pillars – effectiveness, efficiency and people – as well as looking at how the team has dealt with the causes of concern raised in 2018.

The hope is that the inspectors will make the ‘inadequate’ ratings a thing of the past.

A report to a county council scrutiny committee on Friday (October 1), detailed the extensive work carried out to address the four causes of concern.

The work included taking on 15 volunteers to help share fire prevention and fire safety advice, starting mental health first-aider training for staff, setting up a diversity & inclusion steering group and a dignity & respect framework.

The service has also launched a Shadow Board to engage a broad range of staff in decision making.

The report said: “This has been a great success as those who are part of the board feel valued and that they are able to contribute to decision making and more importantly understand the rationale behind decisions.”

Dr Cohen-Hatton praised her staff for their efforts, saying they had worked ‘incredibly hard, particularly through the pandemic’.

There is still some work to do, though, particularly on the People Action Plan.

One of the ‘inadequate’ ratings given by the inspectorate was for the way the Fire Service looked after its people.

It’s a label Dr Cohen-Hatton and her team are determined to shake, which is where the People Action Plan comes into play.

It includes a string of changes, such as improved appraisals, mental health first aiders, equalities champions, talent management and a leadership and behaviour framework. The work is well under way but not yet complete.

Duncan Crow, cabinet member for community support, fire & rescue, said: “We are aware that cultural changes don’t happen over night, they do take time. And we want them to be permanent and embedded and sustained going forward.”