Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 3 informants report

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 3 national key informants report and summary of evidence.

Journey to transformation

Defining Transformation

Defining transformation is not a straightforward process. SFRS interviewees tended to express a shared view of transformation, highlighting the need for the service to focus on changing demands including climate change, terrorism and prevention. Interviewees in Police Scotland, though they have a 10 year strategy [9] for the service, highlighted elements including prevention, wellbeing and cultural change.

From integration and consolidation to transformation

In Year One (2015/16) of the evaluation, both services saw themselves in the ‘consolidating’ and ‘integrating’ phase of the journey and real ‘transformation’ was still to take place with significant challenges ahead.

In 2017 for both police and fire there was a belief amongst the interviewees that they were on ‘the cusp of true transformation’ (13 SFRS interviewee). However, there were differing perspectives on where they were in relation to the integration and consolidation stages of reform.

For SFRS there was a consensus that they had done much of the ‘groundwork’ (6) and are starting to ‘now look and feel like a national service’ (6) but that they still have some consolidation work to do before moving into transformation. As part of this consolidation phase they are working on standardising processes, governance arrangements and accountability.

For Police Scotland, the development of Policing 2026 [10] was viewed to have provided strategic direction and though they are early into the transformation journey, they have a plan of how to achieve it. However, there was a view from outside the service that Police Scotland are still struggling with the integration phase of reform which might delay the scope to engage in more fundamental transformation (5).

Strategy and implementation

Although SFRS do not have a strategic document outlining their vision for transformation equivalent to Policing 2026, interviewees stated that the service did have a clear vision for the future. There were, however, differing views amongst the partner organisations, with some suggesting that SFRS know what they need to do as well as understanding their constraints; while others believed that the service is struggling to determine their role over the next 10 years and therefore needs a strategy document [11] . It should, however, be noted that SFRS has a statutory duty to produce a three year strategic plan that outlines how it will meet the various Ministerial priorities detailed within the Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland, which it does adhere to. SFRS has also commenced a public consultation process on it’s Service Transformation aspirations which will inform the organisations future direction.

Police Scotland have developed a 10 year strategy, Policing 2026, which has been based on detailed assessment of demand, academic evidence regarding good practice in policing, the Christie principles, and engagement and consultation with the workforce and community. They have also looked at international examples for different models of policing which have helped inform their strategy. Policing 2026 has therefore provided a vision for the future and a focus for where the organisaiton needs to be. The next phase is the process of developing a 3 year implementation plan [12] for how to operationalise the strategy and start to develop new programmes and initiatives. There is an understanding that this will take time to develop.

‘The segment 2026 has been developed. They're starting to develop their implementation plans around some of that stuff there, so, to me, there's definitely a… sea change now about …looking towards the future’ (2 partner interviewee)

‘It does feel like they have really bought the ticket on transformation now and are … fully committed to the transformation agenda now’ (3 partner interviewee)

However, some partner organisations had concerns about both the speed at which Police Scotland were moving towards implementation and the level of detail set out in the 2026 strategy:

‘What 2026 says, it's all fine words, and its relatively easy to put together and we're saying well actually yeah that sounds...that sounds fine but we need the detail, we need the implementation plan’ (9 partner interviewee)

‘The models that are presented to us are presented on the basis of plausibility … rather than of evidence or detailed modelling, or experience, or replication of a model that's worked elsewhere. It just seems...it just seems not as rigorous as you might expect for a large organisation (4 partner interviewee)

Drivers and vision for transformation

Representatives of both services felt they were on the ‘cusp’ of transformation and were making progress towards this. There was also a sense amongst all the interviewees that change was inevitable and necessary whether reform had happened or not, due to the affects of austerity. As such, in moving into the transformation stage, a key driver for both services was identified as reductions in budget [13] . For Police Scotland, interviewees highlighted the need (and the challenge) of being able to deliver the service based on a balanced, sustainable budget. Reduced finances are also viewed by SFRS as a driver of transformation, but there is also an acknowledgement that even without financial pressures they would still need to transform due to the reduction in fires and changing demands [14] .

An environment of changing demands exist for both services and it is acknowledged that there is a need to adapt, analyse, assess and understand these demands, and ensure that both Police Scotland and SFRS have the structures and resources in place to meet them. There is also a recognition in both services that there is a need to transform the mind-sets and culture to ensure the workforce embraces the new challenges they face.

For SFRS the focus is on the need to be adaptable to new risks such as terrorism and climate change. Connected to this, are the changing roles and expectations of firefighters and the need to have pay and terms and conditions that reflect this. This changing role also includes a widening of the prevention role as part of a transformation agenda, focusing on health, safety and wellbeing, particularly of vulnerable populations.

‘So ‘transformation’ for us is about maintaining, you know, the foundation of the traditional services that communities would expect from us, but being able to widen the role and respond to a much wider community safety I guess role, and ‘community safety’ in its broadest sense from medical to terrorism to weather, and everything in between’ (13 SFRS interviewee)

One of the interviewees also suggests that the Retained Duty System in rural and remote areas is a risk to the service due to the challenges of delivering training, maintianing IT systems and a lack of retained firefighters, and consequently this is also driving a transformation agenda.

For Police Scotland delivering on Policing 2026 is central to the transformational phase. For some of the interviewees much of this hinges on creating a healthy organisation which delivers on the wellbeing of the public and workforce:

‘95% of our budget is spent on our people, and…we can't spend more time worrying about putting fuel in our cars or batteries in our radios than we do about making sure our people can do their job, feeling well and …appreciated for what they do. So that feels, to me, the kind of the bit still to come of the transformation journey’ (8 Police Scotland interviewee)

There is also recognition of the need for fundamental cultural shift in relation to developing a skilled workforce able to deal with an expanding role focused increasingly on prevention and early intervention. With this, there is an understanding that there is a need to work across agencies to find solutions.

There was however, a difference between how the interviewees from both police and fire viewed partnership working in a transformative context. Many described the need to work across organisations and combine resources through enhanced partnership working, particularly due to the impact of austerity. However, another vision for transformation was described as the creation of a single emergency service consisting of the police, fire and ambulance services. This was viewed as true transformation, but unrealistic to happen in the current political climate [15] .

Transformation is also viewed by both services as an ongoing process of improvement and a journey, not something that will happen quickly. It is also viewed as an opportunity to start questions of what the services should look like over the next few years.

‘Transformation journey is to make sure that we give the best services to promote community safety’ (13 SFRS interviewee)

‘That's why I'm saying it never ends, transformation…It is genuinely continuous improvement’ (7 SFRS interviewee)

‘We're probably just on the cusp of true transformation, because we're now in a space where, having tried to build the foundations if you like, we can start to look towards ‘Well, what does the future service look like?’, so what's the new risks that we're facing? What demands are there for our services now and in to the future? How does technology play in to that? You know?’ (13 SFRS interviewee)


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