Suffolk Fire Service support national push to bring diversity to force

The Home Office are hoping to get more women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds involved in

The Home Office are hoping to get more women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds involved in the fire service Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

A national push is beginning to bring more women and people from ethnic minority background into the fire service, it has been revealed.

Figures released by the Home Office suggest that around 95% of firefighters in England are white and male. Only 5.2% are women and 3.9% come from an ethnic minority background.

The Home Office believe that myths and stereotypes are causing less of these groups to sign up as firefighters with many thinking they would not be physically fit enough to undertake the role.

Mark Hardingham, chief fire officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is proud to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, which is reflected in our firefighters and staff across the service.

“A more diverse fire service is a better fire service, so we are always working to increase our diversity through recruitment of new staff and retention of existing staff.

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“Social stereotypes mean that women and people from different minority ethnic backgrounds don’t always see the fire service as a career for them.

“This national campaign helps to bust those myths about the service and I can assure you Suffolk already has some fantastic female firefighters and firefighters from a range of different communities and backgrounds – our aspiration is to increase the level of diversity.”

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A fitness guide has been created as part of this push with examples of the sorts tests applicants would need to carry out to pass.

The Police and Fire Minister, Nick Hurd, said: “Forget what you see on TV - being a firefighter is not always about carrying people out of burning buildings. As fires have become less common, the role is becoming more about engaging with communities and doing work to prevent fires from happening in the first place.

“So if you care about your community and enjoy connecting with people, then give a taster day a go.

“I am always impressed by the bravery and dedication of firefighters. But it’s time for the workforce to fully reflect the public it serves.”

Ann Millington, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Workforce Committee Chair said: “I am delighted to see this new campaign from the Home Office encouraging a more diverse fire service, which the NFCC has helped to develop. Real life case studies of women, BME firefighters and their experiences will help to bust the myths of what the role of a modern firefighter is.

“We have a number of highly inspirational female staff and we want to encourage more women to join the fire service; to do to this we need to get away from the image of a male-dominated sector, with traditional masculine roles.

“The fire service is accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, background and ethnicity; this new campaign will hopefully encourage more people to apply to become firefighters. It also gives important information on the fitness standards – which can often be perceived as a barrier - and showcase what a varied role it can be. While we are seeing the number of women in the fire service increasing, we want to ensure we are continuously building on this and developing a fire service that is representative of the communities we serve.”

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