dfrsDorset Fire and Rescue Service has become the first Fire and Rescue Service in the South West to be rated at the ‘excellent’ level of the national Equality Framework.

Commenting no the rating Councillor Rebecca Knox Chair of Dorset Fire Authority said: “The rating of our performance on equality issues as excellent is a reflection of our commitment to put the needs of Dorset people at the heart of what we do.

“We have been working hard to strengthen links with all the local communities, to provide equality of opportunity and to tackle disadvantage. However, we recognise that ‘equality is a journey, not a destination’ and we will continue to work to improve the way that we provide local services”.

At the end of last year external assessors from other local authorities across England and the Local Government Agency visited DFRS to examine how the authority performs on equality issues and delivers services to people in Dorset.

Among the features that contributed to the ‘excellent’ level awarded to the authority were:
• A clear vision and direction for the organisation driven by positive leadership from elected members and officers
• Services are shaped as a result of information about changing community needs
• Effective working with partners
• Innovative ways of communicating and engaging hard to reach groups
• Effective use of community volunteers
•An innovative partnership scheme titled Safe And Independent Living (SAIL) that provides a comprehensive single referral route for public agencies

The assessors also spoke favourably of other initiatives including Weymouth Community Safety Centre which has been described as an initiative of national importance.

Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said: “I would like to pay tribute to all staff, not just those who contributed to this assessment, but to everyone working for the authority for their continuing commitment to diversity issues and to making Dorset a safer place for everyone. I am privileged and proud to be part of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service.”

Following the visit the Safe And Independent Living (SAIL) initiative was presented to the LGA Fire Commission as a notable case study for others to consider. SAIL is a multi agency approach which aims to provide a referral point to many agencies enabling access to signposting, support, and services, which is particularly beneficial to those who are aged 50+ or experiencing vulnerability.

Posted 07/01/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com