14/12/2012 - SESVA meets with DFES

DFES AND THE ASSOCIATION MEET TO DISCUSS A NUMBER OF VOLUNTEER CONCERNS

On Monday 10 December the Volunteers Association, David Price, Dave Beard and Gordon Hall met DFES Commissioner Gregson and Deputy Commissioners Bailey and Fewster to discuss matters raised by Volunteers at a meeting on 4 November.  Mr Gregson opened the meeting by advising us that they acknowledge there have been communication issues and this will be addressed by DFES.

He went on to say that there has been a major shift within DFES over the past year, however the SES are the subject matter experts on natural hazards.
DFES advised that there has been a focus on the Keelty report this year and next year the focus will be on command, control and coordination.
Mr Gregson advised that there will be a review of future conferences with a possibility that the SES Volunteers Association will be directly involved in the running of their conference.

The President of the VA explained to the meeting how there had been mistrust with the parent bodies over many years and the Association is keen to see this change for the good in the future.

The peer support group was discussed including how they were not been used in recent years and they felt marginalised. Mr Gregson advised the meeting that a review of Peer Support for SES Volunteers would be conducted.

The vehicle fit for purpose matters were discussed including the VVAC  Mr Gregson agreed that action and a review in this area for the SES was necessary.
The attitude in relation to staff was discussed and the VA President made it known that this was not aimed at the SES District Officers (previously known as District Managers).  The DO’s work loads were such that they have time to clear quickly all training and other files and DFES will be holding the DOs accountable to meet reasonable turn rounds of all files. Any issues here need to be bought to the attention of the District Office.

Mr Gregson advised that equipment for response and emergency matters can be borrowed from the Unit by the District Office when required however, the Unit must be advised at the time, or in advance, and a proper loans procedure implemented between the District Office and the Unit. This way the Unit will know what is happening and can check refurbishment of any stores, vehicles or equipment when returned. Any issues in this area need to be escalated up the chain of command.

Mr Gregson noted our concerns in relation to decentralised operations and advised that to ensure the efficiency and integrity of operations they will on many occasions be centralised. Mr Gregson advised that decentralised control on all operations will not happen.

Mr Gregson advised that in the future there will be blended IMTs and this will mean that the available qualified and experienced person will have the role in the IMT. Responders will only do roles they are qualified to do. In other words all DFES Volunteers may be called upon to carry out roles that they are trained for. This could be an SES person in an IMT for any of the hazards, including fire.

In relation to the consolidation of the emergency services acts Mr Gregson advised that Volunteers and Associations will have an opportunity to have input and he believes there will be adequate opportunity for all to have their say.

DFES were unable to advise a timeline on Level 1 and 2 training or on any replacement of the EM2000.

DFES promised at this meeting to forward an electronic copy of the most recent review into the ATVs.

Please see the dot points below which formed the basis of these discussions and  provide any feedback or comment to: sescomment@gmail.com

  • Major shift in culture and ethos changes towards fire
  • SES Training - where is it now?
  • Loss of representative voice
  • Peer support now ignored by DFES
  • No consultation about Vehicle fit for purpose matters
  • The general attitude of staff towards Volunteers has changed
  • No communication directly from Regional staff
  • In at least one region the Regional Officer has access to the unit and takes vehicles or what he wants, when he wants
  • Regional activities have become fire centric
  • The DFES mindset is now about fire
  • We need to go back to decentralised control to the regions where it originally was
  • Lack of recognition of SES Volunteers and their experience and expertise
  • Fire staff overriding local SES - because they think they know better
  • No SES Volunteer on the new Consolidated Act Working Groups
  • All operations must be locally controlled by the service who traditionally had the role for that hazard