8. Strategic Priority 7 - Partnership
Working with others such as other blue light emergency services, public, private and voluntary organisations and Scotland’s communities should be ingrained throughout SFRS. This includes but goes beyond the important and statutory work undertaken through the established Community Planning Partnerships. Partnerships should develop joined up policies to multidimensional problems. Innovative leadership should be provided to facilitate the identification of collaborative opportunities, making the best use of public resources. The aims should be to achieve community safety, drive out inefficiencies, where possible, whilst achieving operational efficiencies and effectiveness to ultimately improve outcomes for our Scottish communities.
The main purpose of SFRS is to work in partnership with communities and with others in the public, private and third sectors, on prevention, protection and response, to improve the safety and well-being of people throughout Scotland. This section sets out the context, the future vision and strategic direction from Scottish Ministers for SFRS in relation to partnership working. Collaboration and partnership working are interchangeable terms used frequently throughout this Framework.
SFRS must consider how it best designs and delivers services, how it successfully operates in partnership with other public services and with communities and how it will achieve financial efficiencies. Further collaboration with partners should provide the opportunity to establish new working practices that deliver the public safety priorities of our communities across prevention, protection, response and resilience activities. Use of effective and innovative partnership working, helping people to work across organisational boundaries to achieve positive results should continue.
Public Service Reform is founded on the benefits of working collaboratively, across organisational boundaries, ensuring services are shaped around the needs and demands of individuals and communities – with a clear focus on prevention and early intervention to achieve outcomes.
On-going reform within SFRS should continue to reflect the underpinning aim of Christie and the Scottish Government's Public Service Reform agenda which is about improving outcomes, tackling inequalities and empowering communities in sustainable ways and building up the strong pillars of Christie which includes a robust focus on partnership working.
SFRS has a statutory duty to work with others in the community planning arrangements under section 4 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. SFRS also has a statutory duty to work with partners to prepare for and respond to and recover from emergencies under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and associated regulations. SFRS is listed as a public authority in relation to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and as such, will continue to play its part in improving outcomes for communities by enhancing the process of community planning and ensuring that local service providers work with communities to meet the needs of the people who use its services.
SFRS is also a statutory Community Justice Partner under the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016. As such, SFRS contribute to the local strategic planning, monitoring and delivery of community justice outcomes and is jointly accountable for this.
The Island (Scotland) Act 2018 provided for the creation of a National Islands Plan and a duty to island-proof future government policies, strategies and legislation. Since then, a Local Governance Review has created further opportunities for SFRS, its local partners and communities across the country to work together in partnership to propose alternative governance arrangements which can improve outcomes and drive inclusive growth for communities. SFRS should fulfil all of these partnership obligations to best effect.
Data Innovation to Deliver Better Outcomes
SFRS should use data to drive continuous performance improvement. Positive use of data improves people's wellbeing and saves time, money and lives (e.g. during the Covid pandemic, the Scottish Government's Digital Directorate used data to ensure the optimal locations for Covid testing and vaccination centres). It helps to see patterns that are not immediately obvious, which enables getting to the real causes of problems. It allows understanding of how life is experienced by people from different backgrounds and design services to be equitable, and enables examination of the impact that services are having so that adjustment and reform leads to improvement. Consistent flows of information and data innovation to deliver better outcomes are also essential for achieving effective collaboration.
SFRS should continue to develop, accelerate and encourage the use of common digital and data standards across the public sector which will facilitate the joining up of services for the benefit of the people who use them. Therefore clear processes and systems for working with partners such as the NHS, specifically on how data can be used to improve services, are required to identify the most vulnerable communities, and most vulnerable individuals within communities, to target activity where it is most needed and to make an effective contribution to tackling inequalities. However there are known challenges and barriers that exist in relation to cross public service data sharing. The Service should endeavour to work against these barriers to ensure potential resistance to sharing data is both recognised and overcome.
Future Vision – Working with Others
There is much to be achieved by working collaboratively and utilising effective partnerships, by further use of multi-agency working, research collaborations, networking and joint working; all of which should take into account the specific and unique risks facing Scotland, including those that are outwith SFRS's direct control.
SFRS and the Scottish Ambulance Service Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest co-responding trials are an excellent example of public services working together to achieve a common aim. SFRS should continue to work together to help those in Scotland who suffer a cardiac arrest and to develop new ways of working together to achieve further enhancements to delivery of emergency medical response.
More partnership working by SFRS with the Scottish Ambulance Service, the NHS and other partners will be important in ensuring people's safety and wellbeing. We know from other UK-wide trials between 2015 and 2017, and longstanding international experience, that a swifter emergency medical response can yield better outcomes and significant savings in terms of less need for prolonged hospitalisation or dependence on long-term care. There may also be scope for firefighters to respond to other types of emergency medical cases (such as opioid related incidents), subject to further consideration of the clinical evidence, engagement with relevant healthcare professionals, and meeting relevant training and welfare requirements for firefighters. SFRS should aim to make maximum use of the specific skills and capabilities that firefighters have to secure better health outcomes and the more efficient and effective use of resources.
SFRS should continue to work in partnership with the Reform Collaboration Group partners to provide a strategic approach to looking at ways in which shared outcomes, and delivery of services to our communities can be improved and achieve better value for the public purse. SFRS should work with the partners to continue to provide strategic direction and guidance on the development of opportunities for effective collaborative working. Increased and focused collaboration at an early stage in the strategic planning process is required so that more integrated and innovative approaches to collaboration can be identified.
The ongoing establishment, maintenance and development of engagement with, for example, Better Homes, Building Standards and Scottish Government Digital Directorate, local authorities, emergency responders, other community planning agencies, voluntary organisations and businesses remains key to the successful delivery of SFRS's objectives and priorities.
In all decisions involving new investment of capital resources, particularly on buildings and fleet, consideration of any collaborative opportunities must be explored in sharing assets with others. SFRS already has a strong record of working closely with Scottish Ambulance Service to share fire station space and this should continue to be developed.
SFRS should continue undertaking collaborative procurement opportunities with all of its partners, wherever possible, especially considering interoperability requirements. The development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the procurement of electric vehicles is a good example of this collaborative work with other emergency services and local partners.
Partnership Working in Emergencies
SFRS is defined as a Category 1 responder in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. The guidance around that, to assist to collaboratively assess, plan, respond and recover from emergency events, is set out in 'Preparing Scotland' which contains established good practice based on professional expertise, legislation and lessons learned from previous emergencies. Partnership working around emergencies is at the centre of the resilience arrangements in Scotland and SFRS is well embedded in existing Resilience Partnership structures. SFRS continues to play a significant part in discussions at the established multi-agency resilience forums at all levels – nationally, at the Strategic Resilience Partnership, regionally, at all three Regional Resilience Partnerships in the North, East and West partnership areas of Scotland and more locally at the Local Resilience Partnerships, as well as at relevant individual resilience subgroups, as required.
SFRS should continue developing a shared understanding with both local and national partners of their relative roles, responsibilities and capabilities, to ensure that when emergencies do occur, they are responded to and concluded as effectively and efficiently as possible, and in an interoperable manner. Furthermore, when working with partners and understanding the dynamics of those partnerships, lessons should be learned in the spirit of continual improvement when better ways of working are identified as a result of working together. Community Planning Partnerships, local scrutiny arrangements and the Voluntary Sector Resilience Partnership, which brings category 1 responders together with the Scottish Government, Resilience Partnerships and key Voluntary and Community sector colleagues provide ideal forums for such discussions and the process should ensure that decisions are informed by local engagement. However it is equally important that local partners also own their commitments and methods of working together and do not simply collaborate together because they are being encouraged to do so; it must also make good business sense to collaborate where partners choose to do so. SFRS should view community planning as an opportunity to engage with a range of partners and pool collective resources in order to drive improvements in outcomes in which it has an interest. These may be both shared and interdependent, and can contribute to the achievement of their own organisational objectives.
SFRS should work in partnership with City Regions and Community Wealth Building Projects in support of its Future Vision and Strategic Planning requirements. These packages of funding and decision making powers, agreed between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local partners, are designed to bring about long-term strategic partnership approaches to improving regional economies, aiming to help harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive economic growth. They are implemented by regional partners and overseen by the Scottish City Region Deal Delivery Board. Each deal is tailored to its city region, reflecting its individual economic strengths and weaknesses, and comprises a programme of interventions to support positive, transformative change.
There is clearly a strong need for effective leadership, governance and performance management in developing and maintaining partnerships. SFRS should provide innovative leadership, good governance and should relay the clear joint ambitions of increased and focused collaboration when setting up all partnership initiatives. SFRS should actively drive new and existing collaboration forward.
Partnerships Across the Wider Scottish Public Sector
SFRS should aim to work with its partners towards achieving a Digital Scotland in which geography, background or ability is no barrier to getting online, in which public services are reinvented to make them more personal, accountable, adaptable, efficient, sustainable and worthy of public trust, and in which businesses and third sector partners are empowered and supported to embrace the advantages of digital technology. In order to deliver a citizen focussed Service, SFRS should continue to develop its interaction and communications with the public. For example, when developing its website, its social media presence, any interactive applications and engaging with young Scottish citizens, SFRS should look to put the user at the heart of its service design.
SFRS should look to develop opportunities for new partnerships as well as continuing to build on the strong links it has already developed with its partners, including building upon more integration with voluntary sector resilience partners in order to identify and tackle national and local risk-based priorities. SFRS should also continue its collaborative work, including its participation in and contribution to work focused on reducing unintentional physical and psychological harm that could have been predicted or prevented. SFRS should continue to implement agreements for sharing premises, assets and services with emergency service partners, including with Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service where it could help protect public service provision within a community or contribute to better local or national outcomes.
SFRS should continue to be innovative in its thinking and should continue to consider new approaches to improving the safety of Scottish communities. SFRS should continue to work closely with individuals and communities to gain a much deeper understanding of their needs, to maximise talents and resources, to support self-reliance and build resilience across the organisation. A key asset SFRS should factor in when doing this is the positive relationship and trust it continues to enjoy with the public. When considering what additional tasks firefighters might undertake in the future, both collaboratively and in partnership with other emergency responders and partners, as well as separately as firefighters in their own right, SFRS should maintain effective relationships with trade unions and their partnership approach with employees, negotiating bodies and the Scottish Government.