Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) can now commission another Fire Peer Challenge, to be undertaken at a time of their own choosing. The challenge is delivered at no direct cost to the receiving FRA.
Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge were developed following the abolition of the audit and inspection regime and the national performance framework. They are central to the shift that has been made to sector-led improvement and greater local accountability.
The opportunity has recently been taken to refresh the approach to both Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge, taking into account various sources of learning and feedback, including a full evaluation of the programme to date, in order to ensure they remain relevant and aligned to the needs of the sector. A new toolkit has been developed to support the process.
Fire Peer Challenge is delivered at no direct cost to the receiving Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA). The opportunity now exists for Fire and Rescue Authorities to commission another Fire Peer Challenge, to be undertaken at a time of their own choosing.
Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge are managed and delivered by the sector for the sector. Operational Assessment provides an opportunity for Fire and Rescue Authorities to assess themselves across a number of key aspects of service provision; Fire Peer Challenge allows FRAs to access independent input to support improvement, focusing on areas the FRA has identified as particularly seeking the input of peers. The ambition of the peer team is to help the Fire and Rescue Authority respond to its local priorities and risks in its own way and to the greatest effect.
The approach is based on the following principles:
- fire and rescue services are responsible for their own performance
- stronger local accountability leads to further improvement
- fire and rescue services have a sense of collective responsibility for performance in the sector as a whole
- the role of the LGA is to help Fire and Rescue Authorities by providing the necessary support.
An excellent response from the fire sector, delivering real benefits
Since the current approach to Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge was launched in 2012, all 46 Fire and Rescue Authorities have undertaken it.
In spring 2013 we gathered views from a number of chief fire officers on how they thought peer challenge had added value for their service. This led us to produce a series of short stories about how services have used the process and the real benefits it has delivered:
Second round: completed fire peer challenges
Between 2011 and 2015, all 46 Fire and Rescue Services undertook a fire peer challenge. In October 2015 the ‘second round' of fire peer challenges started, using the updated Operational Assessment and fire peer challenge toolkit and framework. Peer challenges undertaken using the revised approach are:
- Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service - 28th November – 1st December 2017
- Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service - 28 February to 3 March 2017
- Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service - 24 to 27 January 2017
- Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service – 22 to 25 November 2016
- West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service – 17 to 20 October 2016
- Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service – 11 to 14 October 2016
- Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service – 14 to 17 June 2016
- Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service – 21 to 24 March 2016
- Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – 24 to 27 November 2015
- Surrey Fire and Rescue Service – 6 to 9 October 2015
Refreshing the approach
In 2013, the LGA and CFOA commissioned Cardiff Business School to carry out an independent evaluation of the Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge programme. The outcomes from the evaluation were reported in March 2014.
It is recommended that FRAs undertake a self-assessment against the Operational Assessment toolkit every three years. Doing so is a prerequisite for having a Fire Peer Challenge. It should be undertaken in a spirit of providing genuine challenge and looking to further enhance self-awareness.
The process is not intended to be burdensome and should make use of evidence readily available. It should be treated as part of the 'business as usual' of performance management in the FRA. There is not a standard approach or template for completing the self-assessment and FRAs are encouraged to use their existing approaches. We are, however, happy to look at providing some examples that may be of help.
If you are interested in your Fire and Rescue Authority commissioning a Fire Peer Challenge, please contact your regional Principal Adviser.
If you would like to discuss the Operational Assessment and Fire Peer Challenge process, please contact:
Chris Bowron, Programme Manager, LGA
Telephone: 07789 373625