CFOA responds to Home Office workforce statistics

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has responded to new statistics released by the Home Office today (Thursday October 28) which primarily focuses on the make up of English fire and rescue services workforce; focussing on age, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

CFOA is pleased to see more transparency across fire and rescue services and more information available to the public. However, the Association has highlighted austerity measures which led to fire budget cuts of more than £300 million during the last six years (28% of government funding), leading to little recruitment taking place during this period, impacting on progressing workforce diversity.

In addition, the report shows the number of operational staff has fallen by almost a fifth during the last five years, highlighting the scale of reductions across fire and rescue services’ workforce.

The figures show in 2015/2016 that:

  • Firefighters in England were predominantly male (95%) white (96%) and aged 36 or older (73%)
  • 5% of firefighters were women. This was 4.7% in the previous year and 4.1% five years ago
  • Of those who stated an ethnicity, 3.8% were from an ethnic minority group (doesn’t include all FRSs)
  • 3% of firefighters were bisexual, gay or lesbian (doesn’t include all FRSs)

Ann Millington, CFOA’s Director of People & Organisational Development commented: “All fire and rescue services have undertaken work to change and challenge the views that it is a male profession.

“A lot of work has also been done to encourage more female firefighters along with people from a range of ethnicities and backgrounds to join; helping to ensure fire services are as representative as possible for the communities the serve. Despite austerity measures, services have continued to work on improving diversity through work programmes aimed to change culture and improve development opportunities for staff.”

Ann Millington added: “As we widen our role to further expand our health and community work, we need diversity of ideas and skills, along with people who can help us integrate our services with our partners and the communities we serve.  We are working together and with the Home office to attract people to our sector.

“We want people to recognise that we can offer a career and a great place to work, while creating equal opportunities for people from different backgrounds; ultimately having a positive impact on the diverse communities we serve.”

The new statistics include new data on workforce diversity, including: 

  • Detailed ethnicity of staff (FRS level)
  • Age of staff (FRS level)
  • Religion of staff (at a national level) – published as “Experimental Statistics”
  • Sexual orientation of staff (at a national level) – published as “Experimental Statistics”

Experimental statistics are published to involve both users and stakeholders in their development and as a means to build in quality at an early stage. The definition is ‘new official statistics undergoing evaluation’.

The Operational statistics form part of the government’s Fire Reform Programme which was announced in May this year. This included a clear direction for fire and rescue services across England to improve accountability and transparency.

Dave Etheridge, CFOA’s President said: “These figures provide an accurate picture of fire and rescue services at the current time, but also reflect almost seven years of austerity when recruitment was at an all time low and budgets were substantially reduced. A number of services are now recruiting and we will hopefully see a positive change in these statistics in the coming years.

“However the changes are likely to be relatively small to begin with due to building up recruitment levels.  We are working hard to ensure we proactively encourage and work with a range of different people to ensure diversity, while breaking myths of what the role of a firefighter entails.”

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