Training of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's retained duty system personnel: HMFSI inspection report
2 About the inspection
2.1 The Inspectorate
HMFSI in Scotland is a body that operates within, but independently of, the Scottish Government. Inspectors have the scrutiny powers specified in section 43B of the 2005 Act. These include inquiring into the state and efficiency of the SFRS, its compliance with Best Value, and the manner in which it is carrying out its functions.
We also have an established role in providing professional advice and guidance on the emergency response, legislation and education in relation to the Fire and Rescue Service in Scotland.
Our powers give latitude to investigate areas we consider necessary or expedient for the purposes of, or in connection with, the carrying out of our functions:
- The SFRS must provide us with such assistance and co-operation as we may require to enable us to carry out our functions.
- When we publish a report, the SFRS must have regard to what we have found and take such measures, if any, as it thinks fit.
- Where our report identifies that Best Value is not secured, or that the SFRS is not efficient or effective or will, unless remedial measures are taken, cease to be efficient or effective, Scottish Ministers may direct the SFRS to take such measures as may be required. The SFRS must comply with any direction given.
We work with other Inspectorates and agencies across the public sector and co-ordinate our activities to reduce the burden of inspection and avoid unnecessary duplication.
We aim to add value and strengthen public confidence in the SFRS and achieve this through independent scrutiny and evidence-led reporting about what we find. Where we make recommendations in a report, we will follow them up to assess the level of progress. We will identify good practice that can be applied across Scotland. Our approach is to support the SFRS to deliver services that are high quality, continually improving, effective, and responsive to local and national needs.
2.2 The inspection
This inspection is self-directed by the Chief Inspector and conducted under the powers conferred on the Chief Inspector under sections 43B and 43C of the 2005 Act.
The inspection was instigated following our recent local area inspection programme where we have witnessed the RDS training programme and recording system in place. RDS firefighters have consistently raised issues and concerns with HMFSI about the Service's training and recording systems. The concerns raised included:
- the location of central training establishments;
- inconsistency of training time available;
- applicability of training delivered to local risks;
- lack of flexibility within the training plan;
- the time available to complete the training programme and training activity;
- the content of training packages;
- an imbalance between theory and practical training; and
- availability and access to Incident Command Level 1 (ICL 1) courses.
As is normal practice, the terms of reference for this inspection were publicly consulted upon.
The intention of this inspection report is to set out the facts and then to present the Chief Inspector's independent view of the situation and where appropriate make recommendations to the Service.
The methodology used to conduct this inspection is similar to other inspections that HMFSI has conducted and provides a structure which is risk-based, proportionate and focusses on improvement.
The aim of our inspection is to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the RDS training systems in place across the Service. It considered:
- Initial training
- Maintenance of skills
- Two examples of specialist skills training
- Incident command training
The inspection commenced with a desktop review of data policies, procedures and information provided by SFRS. This was followed by a programme of fieldwork where members of the inspection team visited locations across the Service and conducted face-to-face interviews with relevant staff and observed training delivery to obtain evidence of practice.
Staff groups interviewed included the Chair of the SFRS Board, Chairs of Board committees, members of the SLT, lead officers with responsibility for training, area-based instructors, employee representative bodies and RDS and Volunteer crews from a range of fire stations across Scotland.
We considered the structures and disposition of instructional staff based at training facilities, and those who are deployed to support RDS managers in delivering training in fire stations. We considered the governance and processes in place to ensure the Service, and the Board, are provided with evidence that staff are capable of carrying out their role in a safe and competent manner.
Our inspection report is also informed by evidence obtained during our local area inspection programme. It reflects the circumstances at the time of our visits undertaken initially from January to July 2018 and then August to October 2019 respectively.
This inspection is not a comprehensive in-depth audit of all aspects of RDS training within the SFRS, albeit it is sufficiently detailed in order for HMFSI to give a professional judgement on the activity and suitability of the RDS training arrangements. The SFRS has a programme of internal audits which involve a detailed look at its strategic functions and we do not want to duplicate that work, although we do take that into consideration when carrying out our inspections.
The sampling methodology that we adopt is not guaranteed to identify all potential areas for improvement or good practice; we intend that it is a proportionate activity that provides an overview of the training activity. It has established to the Chief Inspector's satisfaction the facts needed to draw conclusions and make recommendations where appropriate.
We collaborated with Education Scotland to obtain an independent professional and specialist analysis of RDS firefighter training with particular focus on the systems in place for ensuring maintenance of skills.
During the inspection HMFSI provided feedback to key SFRS staff including the Chief Officer and strategic and training managers, so that significant emerging issues and themes could be acted upon at an early opportunity.