Generally, I feel the emergency services are undervalued and the respect for particularly the police, is dwindling and is nothing like it used to be, sadly.
We know from the surveys carried out by the Police Federation, for example, that morale of police officers in particular, is low at the moment, so, I think we need to do all we can to make sure that our police and other emergency services staff feel valued by the public, by the government, and by their own organisations.
It’s not fair that our emergency services feel like that, the jobs they do are inspiring and it’s up to the rest of us in society to stand up and say thank you and say how much we admire and respect what they do, which gives the rest of us the chance to go about our daily lives.
Another critical point is that decision-makers and management within the services should be focusing on making staff feel valued, giving them a voice, and actually keeping hold of them. Not only that but offering them the right support if they do present with an issue to ensure they feel like they are still able to carry on doing the job they love.
If you’re faced with a high-risk or dynamic situation, which is often daily business for the emergency services, you want someone with experience making decisions. I would say that we’re at risk of losing very experienced committed people because we’re not looking after them properly.
A great example of how leaders should be spreading that message was seen recently in London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton. The way she openly talked about her staff and about the amazing job they do without a moment to think and making fast moving decisions, I’m sure will have been very much appreciated. It’s so important that leadership feel empowered to make these statements and show support for their staff.
One of the risks in society today is despite the emergency services having to make split second life saving decisions, we have a culture of hindsight where people make a big deal after weeks and months of consideration over a split second judgement call – I think there needs to be much more support provided to staff around that.
Joining the emergency services is a vocation. People join to help save lives and keep people safe – very often we hear politicians and leaders talking about emergency services as ‘resource’ – it's only the tragic events of the last few weeks that has actually made people start to speak up more about the people behind the uniform.
These people have probably got a wife, husband, or kids at home who are worried about them. The uniform is actually being worn by someone who could be your brother or your sister and we need to think about the dedication they show.
We recently aired the ‘Mind over Marathon’ documentary and on that show we had a detective dealing with depression. This officer was a great example of someone who has been through something and had a lot to say about how we should be working and supporting our staff who have mental health issues – these are the types of people who should be travelling up and down the county advising leaders how to look after their staff.
I really support the work that Oscar Kilo is doing – all organisations must start with themselves. It’s not complicated – just make sure you are doing all you can to make sure your staff feel valued. Oscar Kilo could be a great vehicle to help drive this.
With DIY SOS, the reason people feel valued is because I am on site a lot of the time and I take the time to talk to them, get to know them, and ask about their families so if I had one message for leaders in the emergency services, its that writing a letter to a member of staff is not enough.
I understand that senior officers haven’t got the time to speak to every member of staff personally, but all levels of manager should feel empowered to take the time and the space to talk to, and get to know their staff, make sure they are ok and acknowledge when a member of their team has done a good job.
The biggest challenge is changing the culture within your organisations. Make wellbeing and talking to your staff part of your daily business – you can't start to change other people's opinions of you until you sort your own out.