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The 2010 change in legislation eliminated the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) method for measuring the performance of services and organizations. Among the organizations that were using such a method were Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. A review of available Quality Assurance (QA) systems was conducted in this report, the results of which outlined two models – ISO Quality Management System (QMS) and Investors in People (IiP), which implementation corresponds to Fire and Rescue National Framework and the strategic aims of the service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). Thus, the present report recommends the aforementioned two systems for further consideration.
The development of assessment methods in service delivery indicates the way the government changes its focus on what is important in the quality assurance of the services. The introduction of Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) in 2001 was the direct successor to the Best Value regime and focused on core service performance. The assessment was followed by Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) which simplified the score to merely indicate exceptional areas and areas of concern (Parry, 2010). Now, the recent legislative change announced on 25 June 2010, informed the audit committee of the abolishment of the CAA, arguing that such a move will save “the Audit Commission £10 million and cut significant inspection costs for councils” (Parry, 2010).
For Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, such changes outline the necessity to review the existing methods of assessment, along with any other available systems of quality assurance. With a period established for the development of a new reporting system ending April 2011, it is advised that a new system of quality assurance should be adopted that will correspond to the new legislative changes. The present report is addressed to Shropshire Chief Fire Officer and outlines the results of such review along with recommendations that the service should consider for evaluation.
The content of the report along with its findings is the result of an analysis of the documentation of Shropshire Service. The documents of the company include their Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs), including actions plans and strategies, and the analysis of the legal frameworks, such as the Fire and Rescue National Framework 2008-11. The basis of the analysis is outlining the priorities of the fire services, indicating available quality assurance systems, and recommending systems for implementation that correspond the most for those priorities. Accordingly, the data collected include the documentation for the quality assurance systems, collected from their publishers, when possible.
Evaluation of Pre-July 2010 Assessment Tools
The system used for performance assessment in Shropshire Fire and Rescue Services, prior to a legislative change of July 2010, is the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) framework, which came as a replacement for Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). Although currently abandoned, CAA introduced at the time a fundamental shift in the approach for evaluating the performance of public services. Although the final mark given for community service is rather short in details, the indicators used in this mark are very detailed and provide a comprehensive assessment of the service. Additionally, such assessment corresponds to the legal documents that govern the delivery of service in the UK.
The core principle of CAA is that “it should be rooted in the needs and aspirations of local people and will focus on outcomes and quality of life in an area” (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2009a). Thus, the results used in the assessment merely provide a concluding statement that summarises the outcomes of the assessment, which in the case of 2009 CAA for Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Service such statement was represented through a simple score – 3 out of 4. The translation of such score is read as: “fire and rescue authority is delivering its priority services well and has the capability to continue to improve” (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2009b).
The overall principle of the assessment corresponds to the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework 2008-11, which points in the governance and improvement chapter outline the need for the local government to shape the services according to the needs of local communities. Effective partnership is outlined as an important factor for delivering effective partnerships. The key target of CAA in that the services should be rooted in the needs and aspirations of local people can be stated to be a response to a statement in the national framework that increases in the quality of services is not necessarily linked to public satisfaction with those services. Thus, the national framework states that “[i]nvolving local communities in shaping local services and in their delivery is central to meeting the needs of all citizens within our diverse communities” (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008).
In that regard, the basis for the use of CAA in the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service can be seen on several levels. On the regional level, including local area performance management information, national indicator set, the views of people using the services. Those and other information are divided into two distinct categories area assessment and organizational assessment, which were top provide the necessary information for the assessment. Those indicators can be seen operating in line with the national and the regional level of service quality, which are reflected in the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) of the company, in the period during which CAA was in effect. The financial gains aspect, in which the criteria can be seen through the costs saved, is an important element of the strategy of the service, which accordingly coincides with CAA. An additional criterion for improvement is the number of injuries, accidental house fires, and other safety aspects (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2009c). Those aspects can be summarised through the key performance indicators which are part of service delivery evaluation. Performance indicators are quantitative in nature, related to the number of fires, injuries, accidents, fire alarms, and others (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2010). Those criteria are related to the area of operational assessment, which is in the frontline of service delivery, looking at “at how effectively a fire and rescue service is working operationally” (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2009a).
Available Quality Assurance Systems
The key objectives set in the strategic outlook in the IRMP for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service can be through the outlined priorities, which can be differentiated into the following categories:
The Quality Assurance (QA) systems available to target such categories are numerous. The system based on health and safety management can be seen as applicable to the case of the service, especially considering that the expertise of fire and rescue revolves around health and safety among others. The basis for performance measurement is identifying areas of improvement through a comparison against standards. Although the measures included are not unified for organizations, there are certain guidelines that indicate the way the QA system works, which is reporting the inputs, the processes, and outcomes of a system (Health and Safety Executive, 2001). Generally, such a system falls under a single category of Shropshire Fire and Safety priorities, which is improving competence, namely improving core and specialist skills and improving performance.
Another system can be seen through the quality management system proposed by the set of rules and practices written by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (NAIDOO, n.d.). Such standards include quality control elements, which main advantages can be seen in their universal use and generalisability, i.e., they can be applied in different settings and industries. Another important argument for the use of ISO standards is their focus on customers and facilitating continual improvements. Accordingly, the use of ISO standards can be seen as the link between legislative documents and the customers’ requirements, which in this case is represented through the stakeholders in the community. The correspondence of ISO to the service’s IRMP can be seen through the fact that Shropshire’s IRMP processes are accredited to ISO 9001 standards. Although the accreditation to ISO covers only the planning process, the conformance to ISO standards might include other areas, including assessment of the potential impact of climate change, personnel development, and others. Accordingly, the aims of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service consider consulting with “stakeholders and establish their requirements and measures of performance”, which parallel the customer focus as one of the eight principles of ISO Quality Management Systems QMS (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2011).
Another QA system can be seen through Investors in People (IiP), a business improvement tool, which main aim is providing “tailored assessments designed to support organizations in planning, implementing and evaluating effective strategies and is relevant for organizations of all sizes and sectors” (IiP, 2011). The system is currently owned strategically by the UK Commission for employment and Skills, with the main aim of the system is provide a framework for improving business performance, which is founded on three principles, plan, do, and review. The benefits of IiP can be seen through focusing on managerial aspects in organizations, which in the case of fire and rescue services might help in equally distributing the important process between those related to fire and safety and organizational culture, staff, development, and management (IiP, 2011).
Finally, a QA system applicable to the case of fire and rescue service can be seen through EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) Excellence Model. The principles of the Excellence model can be seen in general, which implies the adaptability of the framework to various settings and industries. The core of the model can be seen through enables and results in criteria, in which 32 criteria are distributed. The results, on the other hand, are differentiated between people, customers, and society (Excellence in Business, 2009). The applicability of the model can be seen through the focus on such aspects as partnership and resources, which according to the national framework are part of the outlook for governance and performance, where “[w]orking together in effective partnerships with other local services is vital to delivering more efficient and effective local services” (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008). Similarly, the excellence model emphasizes partnership as one of its criteria.
Recommended Systems – ISO, IiP, or Both?
The services suitable and thus recommended for adoption in Shropshire Fire and Rescue are represented through the ISO quality management systems and Investors in People. The suitability of both approaches can be seen through the prevalence of advantages that conforms to the priorities of the services and the national framework over their minor drawbacks. In the case of ISO, the feasibility of certification can be seen in that it can be applied to different parts of the organisation. For example, ISO certification might be applied the documentation process, the equipment used, or as in the example of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in the next section, a specific unit of the service (Emergency Planning Service in this case). Thus, accordingly, the implementation of ISO will target risk in the organisation on two scales. On the one hand, the national framework clearly states that “[f]ire protection measures have an important role to play as part of a balanced strategy of risk reduction”, for which the implementation of ISO will aim at reducing risk through standardising the processes in the service (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008). On the other hand, standardisation eliminates the responsibility from the organisation and targets such aim as securing the highest safety level for all staff..
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IiP suitability can be seen through focusing on the people who work in the organisation. If aiming at implementing both QA systems, the ISO QMS can be used for the process that can be measured, while IiP can be seen beneficial in improving organisational aspects at the core of which are the people. Taking for example such priority of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service as improving communication, identifying competencies and skills, IiP can be a suitable option for improving those processes. The implementation of those QA systems in conjunction will allow the organisation to eliminate the responsibility of inspection form the government, and at the same time address all the priorities outlined in the service’s IRMP.
The Application of ISO in Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
The implementation of ISO standards was recommended to be adopted for the emergency planning unit. The service was awarded an ISO certification, namely 9001/2001 family, following the Investor in People (IiP) standard which the organisation received in 2007. The 9000 family of standards of quality management, which was previously known as the quality assurance standard BS 5750, was implemented with several objectives in mind. Many of those objectives are similar or parallel to the priorities outlined by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service (TYNE AND WEAR FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY, 2008a). The intention to use ISO quality management systems came after the identifying the need for improving systems and processes in organisations. The issues that were identified as needing improvements in Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service largely fall within the priorities identified in Shropshire. For example, “culture, staff, planning, training, exercising, management processes and customer service” are related to the competency and the capacity priority identified in the IRMP strategy. (Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority, 2009c, TYNE AND WEAR FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY, 2008a).
Receiving certification, the service had to include several optional and mandatory processes in order for a standardisation to be achieved. Accordingly, the certification required strict internal audit on those processes as well as external audits carried out by third –party accredited certification body in the UK. In quality assurance perspective, the certification can be paralleled to inspection in a way that it reduced the risks on the service. With the legal tool to enforce training and development being Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007), the incorporation of ISO 9001:2000 standards for quality management can be seen as a demonstration of the serious approach of the organisation to manage its risks accordingly, and at the same time, it is a step forward for the improving the workforce development needs outlined in the national framework, namely the identification of “training and development of staff and the currency and provision of risk information as a key area for improvement” (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008). Following the application of ISO, the service renewed the certification, where areas of concern were identified by the audit tem along with suggested actions to follow (TYNE AND WEAR FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY, 2008b). Accordingly, the case of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service indicate the appropriateness of two QA systems working in tandem, ISO and IiP.
The present report reviewed the performance assessment tools used in Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service prior the legislative change of July 2010. The report provides a review of available QA systems, including Health and Safety, ISO QMS, IiP, and EFQM (Excellence Model. Analysing the priorities of the services, the report suggests for consideration the ISO certification and IiP model. The characteristics of the attributes of those systems conforms the most to the strategic aims of Shropshire service into the future. Finally, the report provided an illustration of a successful implementation of both systems in Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
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