We Asked, You Said, We Did

Below are some of the issues we have recently consulted on and their outcomes.

We Asked

We asked for views on our draft Strategic Plan 2019-22, which sets our direction as a Service for the coming three-year period. We designed an online survey on our consultation hub, to find out if we had chosen the right Strategic Outcomes and Objectives, and to invite comments on the Plan as a whole.

You Said

We received 252 online responses to the consultation and a further 7 written responses from partner organisations. 194 (75%) were received from individuals and 65 (25%) from organisations.  93 individuals identified themselves as SFRS staff, which is 36% of the total respondents.   Responses were strongly supportive with 83% of respondents, on average, agreeing to our proposals across all outcomes and objectives.

Outcome 1 – Our collaborative and targeted prevention and protection activities improve community safety and wellbeing, and support sustainable economic growth.

This outcome and its objectives were very much supported by partner organisations.  They indicated that these aims aligned with their own plans, and were willing to work in greater collaboration with us, sharing data and intelligence for wider understanding of those most vulnerable to harm, and to support organisational learning.  General support from others on our commitment to a targeted prevention based approach was also noted.

Where Councils acknowledged support to reduce Unwanted Fire Alarm Signal (UFAS), there was a general concern of others about a reducing attendance at this type of incident.  Several comments from staff and individuals indicate we should not be responsible for ‘economic growth’ nor should we be taking over jobs of other agencies to support public wellbeing.  There was a call to concentrate on operational readiness and training before expanding our prevention activities.

Outcome 2 - Our flexible operational model provides an effective emergency response to meet diverse community risks across Scotland.

A ‘flexible operating model’ to meet local need, diversity and risk was very much supported with a caveat by some that local provision is maintained.  There was some uncertainty over this terminology as it was also perceived as cuts by many.  Challenges around maintaining the existing Retained Duty System model were also expressed. 

Like Outcome 1, there was clear support for working more collaboratively with our partners, joint training exercises, sharing lessons learned, and understanding each other’s demands and risks.  There were also similar requests to focus on our core duties, training and standards. 

There was support for the use of technology to assist our response but this should not be at the expense of firefighter numbers.  There were several suggestions that we need better local knowledge in Control Rooms (more in local areas) to ensure efficient deployment of resources. 

Comments indicate that we need to communicate with staff, partners and communities about changes, providing clear evidence for decision making and to share assessment methodologies used.  

Outcome 3 – We are a great place to work where our people are safe, supported and empowered to deliver high performing innovative services.

The strongest support was received for this outcome and supporting objectives.  There was a clear message that we must provide support for and invest in our people.  The inclusion of mental health support within the Plan was commended. 

There was a call from staff to invest in training, increase local training provision and improve learning and development opportunities for all.  There was backing for open communications and increased engagement, but our staff in particular were sceptical that this would happen.

There was significant support for building a more inclusive and diverse workforce. The recent positive action recruitment campaign was however not favourably received by some staff. 

Outcome 4 – We are fully accountable and maximise our public value by delivering a high quality, sustainable fire and rescue service for Scotland. 

Significant support was also received for this outcome and objectives.  It was suggested that being accountable supports local scrutiny and builds public confidence.   Councils noted that local scrutiny arrangements were well received and our support and contribution to Community Planning Partnerships appreciated.  Public and partners however, need to understand more about what we do so that we can work with them better to achieve greater public value.

It was noted that our staff are committed to improving standards and maintaining the highest quality of service provision, but there was a call for more investment in our frontline infrastructure and IT systems.  

The terminology relating to sustainable development was acknowledged and understood by organisations, but others believed this suggested a reduction in resources or cuts and were unclear of its meaning. 

Other General Comments

Lack of funding was highlighted as the greatest concern over our ability to fulfil our objectives, giving rise to fears over station closures and staff cuts.  Concerns were also raised about our ability to respond effectively to our core duties if too much focus was placed on expanding Firefighter roles.  In general, partner organisations expressed faith that we would be able to achieve all we set out to do and had no major concerns. 

In terms of areas that respondents believed we have missed, there was a suggestion that we need to focus more on service delivery, resources, availability and training.  RDS and volunteer recruitment and retention, and delivery of services in rural communities was also a recommended area of focus.  There was a call for us to do more in relation to youth engagement and education, and suggestions we could strengthen our commitment to partnership working, staff wellbeing and environmental protection within the Plan. 

In response to the question could we do more, there was a general suggestion that we do enough already and we should concentrate on core duties and our staff first.   Conversely, there were comments that said we could always do more to address new and emerging needs and risk in communities – more safety education for the young and elderly for example.  We should also communicate more of what we do to help individuals and communities take some ownership or do more for themselves.  There was support for us to work in partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service and to build on existing good working relationships across partnerships.

You can view all the responses where the respondent provided permission to publish them here.

We Did

We made changes to the text to provide further clarification or emphasis where appropriate.

Several key areas of concern emerged which do not directly impact on the design and content of the Strategic Plan, but they emphasise the importance of our work in relation to:

  • the need to communicate to the public more about what we do beyond firefighting and why it is important that we need to support our partners more to improve the safety and wellbeing of communities, and evidence our wider impact in society.
  • there is also a need to communicate and engage more fully the detail of actions and changes that will be required to support the delivery of the outcomes and objectives.

To support this, the launch of the Strategic Plan will be followed up with a communication campaign to explain more about our intentions.  We will also take comments into account as we develop the action plans which support the Strategic Plan 2019-22.