London Fire Brigade (LFB) has announced an organisation-wide, independently-led external review of its culture. The review comes after an internal investigation conducted by the brigade following the death of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, who was only 21 when he took his own life last August.
The review will deliver a set of clear actions for the brigade to ensure that firefighters are better supported, from trainee level and throughout their career, and feel more able to bring their whole selves to work.
London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said, “I believe that working on a fire station is one of the most rewarding jobs in the country. However, we need to do better at supporting our firefighters and celebrating the fact that they come from every walk of life, reflecting the vibrant city we serve. Our internal investigation into Jaden’s death, and the inquest, unearthed tough questions about how we train young firefighters and introduce them to station life.
“There is a significant programme of work in this review. I firmly believe that it will result in a better experience for firefighters in London and a better brigade for the Londoners we proudly serve.”
The brigade believes that an independently-led, external review is the most robust way to build a better brigade. It will continue to work with the Francois-Esprit family as the review is set up, to help define its purpose and aims, continuing to reflect on Jaden’s experience and move towards positive outcomes for his legacy.
London Fire Brigade’s internal investigation looked at processes and the nature of interpersonal relationships at the time of Jaden’s death, resulting in a number of recommendations to improve LFB workplace culture. Subsequently, in February 2021, the Coroner conducting the inquest into Jaden’s death advised LFB to take steps to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Brigade data shows that colleagues from African, Caribbean and Asian backgrounds or with English as a second language are statistically much less likely to be promoted, more likely to be subject to formal and informal discipline, and more likely to be re-coursed as a trainee. Additionally, women are underrepresented at all levels of the brigade’s operational workforce, and around two-thirds of its lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender colleagues do not feel comfortable disclosing their identity at work.
This external review is strongly supported by the London Region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and comes following positive discussions between the brigade, the FBU and other representative bodies.