The Importance of Diversity to Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue

As we approach Black History Month, our minds shift to the social calendar of activities going on during October and beyond. It is important that we do not forget the journey of the role of Equality and Diversity in the public sector and the wider economy.

Prior to Stephen Lawrence’s death, the campaign of his parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence and the Macpherson Report in 1999 Equality and Diversity was mainly seen as the responsibility of Human Resources and focused around Equal Opportunities within an organisation. There was very little focus on the delivery of services to our diverse communities and the importance of understanding the different needs of everyone we serve in order to deliver the best public service, depending to each person’s needs.

The campaign by Stephen’s family illustrated that everyone, no matter their creed, colour, race deserve equal rights to the services supplied by public organisations and it is essential that those public organisations serve the needs of our diverse community, matching individual needs with services provided.

We now recognise that these are affected and influenced by each individual’s culture, gender, faith, health (mental and physical), education, finances and those of their immediate, and extended, network of family and friends.

For nearly twenty years, since 1997, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has recognised and worked on the need for more Equality and Diversity within its organisation and how they relate to the communities served.

Luton, the major conurbation within the county of Bedfordshire is classified as a “super diverse” town with large Pakistani, Bangladeshi, African Caribbean, African and Irish communities. Bedford, the county town, also has one of the most diverse populations in the country.

For the past ten years Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue has run our ‘Toward Cultural Competency’ course which is available to all employees and mandatory for those applying for and/or achieving promotion to Crew Commander. For the last eight years the Service has also run a Faith Based Football scheme. Initially designed to bring Firefighters and young people from Luton’s communities together it has gone from strength to strength and increased and widened its scope to include home and road safety in Mosques and faith schools and, through local radio station ‘Diverse FM’, to the wider community in Luton

This year, for the third year, the Fire Service will be sponsoring the 11th Annual African Caribbean Achievers Awards on Saturday 14 November 2015 at Stopsley Baptist Church, Luton. Organised by the African Caribbean Community Development Forum (ACCDF) Ltd it brings together more than 100 students and young people from schools and colleges across Luton and the University of Bedfordshire to receive awards in recognition of their outstanding achievement in academia, music and sport. The event forms part of a wider joint strategy to raise attainment levels and is seen as a catalyst to inspire more young people to reach their full potential.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service continue to build relationships with the different communities within the county, something that will become more important as the county continues to change as families and businesses move out of London. As Bedfordshire, becomes increasingly diverse with more languages , faiths, foods, and cultures, the Fire Service will be in the foreground of local, public organisations reacting to and embracing these changes..

Jacqui Burnett FMATT, MCMI
Interim Diversity Adviser
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue