Nazir Afzal to lead an Independent Review of London Fire Brigade’s culture. His report paints a bleak picture of shockingly poor behaviour and painful experiences over many years.
London Fire Brigade ‘institutionally misogynist and racist’, independent review finds
The report, titled the Independent Cultural Review of London Fire Brigade, is based on the experiences of more than 2,000 members of staff.
The report was commissioned after the death of Jaden Francois-Esprit, a trainee at Wembley fire station who took his own life aged 21 in August 2020.
Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor who conducted the review, has labelled the brigade “institutionally misogynist and racist”.
In some watches there appeared to be a deep resistance to women being firefighters, and senior figures explained that the approach of male colleagues was to “treat you badly and hope to get rid of you”.
Afzal said he hoped the review would be a “turning point” so that all firefighters could enjoy dignity at work and not have to run a gauntlet of abuse from colleagues.
Head of London fire brigade says it must face up to racism and misogyny Read more
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What is the Independent Culture Review?
The Independent Culture Review is a thorough examination of the culture at London Fire Brigade, chaired by Nazir Afzal OBE. Over a period of twelve months, he and his team heard from more than 2,000 current and former members of staff and community groups who shared their experiences of the Brigade. At the end of this period Nazir and his team wrote a report explaining their findings, which you can find below.
Why we commissioned a review
Commissioning the review was a recommendation of the internal investigation into the death of a firefighter on development, Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit, who tragically took his own life in August 2020. Before Jaden’s death we knew there were longstanding issues with poor culture and behaviour at the Brigade and we made many attempts to address these issues, but without success. We commissioned this review to give current and former staff and community groups a chance to give us their feedback on our culture, and get independent analysis so that we can improve.
What the review found
The report paints a picture of poor behaviour and painful experiences over many years. This makes the report a difficult read for us and for the communities we serve.
It highlights that women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic, LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse staff experience poor treatment and do less well in their careers with us. Issues were also identified with leadership, and with staff fearing to speak out about abuse. Additionally the report includes examples of behaviour towards members of the public which are completely unacceptable.
We want to reassure everyone that having commissioned this independent culture review we now fully understand the issues and have plans in place to address them.
What happens next
Following the publication of the Independent Culture Review report, we are taking immediate steps to end discrimination, harassment and bullying at London Fire Brigade.
The changes below are just the beginning. We understand that significant change takes time and that we have a lot of work to do. As we develop our plans, we’ll share them here.
Our immediate actions
- We’re taking a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination, harassment and bullying. Anyone accused of this behaviour will be immediately suspended and dismissed if the accusation is upheld.
- We’re introducing a new external complaints investigation service so that staff can feel safe to speak up and cases will be handled objectively and confidentially
- We’re reviewing all our people-related processes to eliminate discrimination, including involving independent people to make immediate improvements where practical.
- We’re making it much easier and quicker for staff to access help and support. Our people provide an essential emergency response service and are frequently exposed to traumatic incidents, which requires improved support.
- We’re making a permanent shift in our approach to leadership. It is the responsibility of our leaders to set and uphold high standards, so those leaders who do not value transparency, accountability and fairness will no longer have a place in the Brigade. We also expect our leaders to own their past mistakes.
The work we do to prevent and respond to incidents saves lives and is based in the trust that the public place in us. We want to earn that trust.
In addition to the changes listed above, we are:
- accelerating work to pilot body worn cameras for staff to ensure respect is shown to the public at all times
- encouraging members of the public to report any poor behaviour to us on our website. Complaints about staff will be investigated by our Independent Complaints Service.
- creating an independent audit committee to measure our progress
Independent Culture Review documents