Following the recent publication of the damning South Wales Fire and Rescue Service culture review, the Welsh Government has vowed to intervene to “oversee sustainable change and prevent a recurrence” of these failures.
Addressing the Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) last week, the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, said it wasn’t a case of if the Welsh Government becomes involved, rather “how and to what extent.”
Blythyn began her address by commending those who spoke out about “the abuse, mistreatment, misbehaviour and mismanagement that they have suffered and witnessed.” Adding that their courage should “not be underestimated.”
She then proceeded to outline how the Welsh Government would need very clear assurances on three issues:
- How sustainable change take place when so many of the existing management structures and practices have been implicated in failure?
- Whether the identified failures might also affect the delivery of front-line services
- The role of the fire and rescue authority in all of this.
“[We are] ruling nothing out in terms of Welsh Government support, direction or intervention in the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.”Hannah Blethyn, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership.
Responding, Welsh Conservative Joel James said, “the report makes for some very alarming reading,” adding that staff past and present were owed a thorough review of complaint cases over the last decade. Reopening these cases, James said, would “ensure that a robust evaluation was made” and help understand whether proper procedures were followed.”
Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams said that while some of the victims’ testimonies were “heartbreaking,”,they were “essential in highlighting the unacceptable behaviours, practices and culture that have been allowed to grow within South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.”
Williams also asked if the Welsh Government would commit to carrying out the “same sort of independent review of culture and values across the other two fire and rescue services in Wales.”
“Staff deserve to work in a safe environment and to know that any behaviour of the frankly horrifying sort described in the report will be dealt with appropriately.”Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru.
While the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership did not commit to a wider review across Wales, she did say the Welsh government had “received regular anonymised reports about gross misconduct cases from all three fire and rescue services in Wales” since ITV broke the story in 2022. Adding that “cases across Wales are generally dealt with appropriately by management.” But this was not true of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which “had a tendency to downplay such conduct.”
Blythyn finished by saying she wanted to see wider change and to work collaboratively with all partners and stakeholders to ensure that the public sector in Wales “can be a beacon of inclusivity and support.”
Read Catherine Levin’s news story on the report into culture in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.