What are they?
National professional Standards are a key component of continuous improvement in any sector. They form a point of focus, against which performance can be measured and further improvement or new requirements be identified.
In short, they identify “what good looks like”.
In many sectors professional Standards evolve from what works well on the ground and are often based on or evolve from what has been recognised as “good practice”.
Generally, where there is evidence that following a certain course of action or approach is making a positive difference, it becomes good practice. This practice can then evolve either into a Standard itself or it informs (and potentially improves) those Standards which already exist.
Why do we need them?
As part of the reforms for fire and rescue services in England, the Fire Standards Board is committed to the introduction of Standards. The intention being to help drive continual improvement across the services alongside the re-introduction of inspection arrangements.
The mission for the new Fire Standards Board is to oversee the development and maintenance of a suite of professional Standards that set out “what good looks like”.
The work of the Board will span all aspects of the delivery of a fire and rescue service so in essence, the Standards are the benchmark that set out what communities can expect their fire and rescue service to achieve no matter where they live in England.
Who do the standards apply to?
The Standards will be applicable to all fire and rescue services in England.
Building and maintaining relationships with partners across fire and rescue services will be vital as Standards are developed. This includes the services in the Devolved Administrations whose views will be considered as Standards are developed and who it is hoped may aim to align to the same Standards where possible and where legislation allows.
How do Professional Standards link to inspections?
The Board and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) are collectively engaged in continuously improving the performance of fire and rescue services in England for the communities they serve.
Having professional Standards available will allow evidence to be gathered by bodies responsible for third party assurance, provided in England by HMICFRS.
As inspection arrangements were introduced before the Fire Standards Board was established, there was little opportunity to influence the initial inspection framework. It is anticipated that as the professional Standards are produced, the inspectorate will integrate those Standards into its inspection framework and judgement criteria.
It is not intended for the professional Standards to be an alternative or separate measurement of performance to that provided through the inspection arrangements.
Learning from the initial inspections will be a key source of information for both the initial development and continual improvement of professional Standards.
The Board and HMICFRS have developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out how they will work together and share information to shape and inform both the final professional Standards and the inspection frameworks and judgement criteria.