HMICFRS Inspections Report – How can whistleblowing services help UK Fire Rescue Services?

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In March 2023, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) released a report on “the values and culture of all 44 fire and rescue services (FRSs) in England”.

The inspections identified ‘a failure to demonstrate positive values as well as evidence of poor behaviours’.

Roy Wilsher, HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services said,

Some members of the service don’t treat each other or members of the public with respect and in some cases, have intentionally caused harm. It is time for this behaviour to stop.[1]

What have HMICFRS recommended?

HMICFRS have offered a series of recommendations to ‘guide individuals and organisations in the right direction.’

The Review concluded FRS should:

  1. Provide staff with access to an independent reporting line that can be used as a confidential way to raise concerns outside their own FRS (1 October 2023)
  2. Make sure staff are aware of reporting avenues, and that these avenues are accessible (1 October 2023)
  3. Review the existing relevant standards on handling misconduct and safeguarding reports (1 June 2023)
  4. Investigate allegations in a way that ensures confidentiality and is independent of the alleged perpetrator (1 June 2023)

As a listed NFCC listed provider, we are able to assist in helping you comply with the newly improved standards. We are available to implement any necessary changes to your whistleblowing and investigation processes.

How can FRS achieve these standards?

Independent whistleblowing hotline

The review concludes that employees do not feel safe to speak out against misconduct and unacceptable behaviour using their internal whistleblower channels.

Fears of reputational, professional, or financial repercussions from disclosure, usually prevent employees from coming forward and reporting wrongdoing.

In turn, this allows wrongdoing to continue and become commonplace.

The failure to provide a reliable, trusted and anonymous employee hotline or external whistleblowing service provider is often the reason for this.

Organisations can demonstrate their commitment to confidentiality, and the security of their employees, by offering an independent and external whistle blower hotline service.

Investigations support 

The report concluded it was essential that existing investigation and report management systems were reviewed.

Consulting an independent whistleblowing specialist services provider to aid you in this review can help increase the efficiency, reliability and security of your processes.

Furthermore, the HMICFRS mandates that investigations are conducted in an independent and confidential manner. Using internal personnel to investigate allegations can raise questions over the integrity of an investigation and the reliability of its outcome. Outsourcing your investigation process demonstrates your commitment to a thorough and impartial investigation and makes sure you are complying with the new standards.

Ensure staff are aware of how to speak up

The findings of the inspection clearly show the importance of implementing effective and independent whistleblowing processes – but staff must be aware of how they can access these services.

Awareness of these enhanced processes will instil confidence in FRS employees in reporting concerns.

External whistleblowing service providers can offer training to employees to help raise awareness of the policy and procedures your company has in place.

Educating your employees of the anonymous employee hotline you have in place, and how and when they can access it, can help improve workplace culture.

Whistleblowing training courses are not only for educating staff on the whistleblowing and complaints resolution processes – they also build confidence that the system works and can be trusted.

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for ‘poor behaviours’

Efforts to combat discrimination in the workplace begin at the top level – robust processes, clear policies, and education of staff helps prevent the development of a toxic culture.  

Training provided by a whistleblower hotline vendor gives staff at all levels a better understanding of: the importance of whistleblowing; the reporting procedures; and the responsibility that firms have towards members of staff who speak up against wrongdoing and discrimination.

Ensuring managers, and other senior members of staff, are trained sufficiently to identify unacceptable behaviour, and support whistleblowers throughout the entirety of the complaints and investigation processes, is a crucial step towards creating a positive working environment for all.


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