This Quarter 3 (Q3) FY 2021-22 Fire Services Outcomes Framework Progress Report provides an update on the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) fire services performance indicators, in line with legislated requirements.
Reporting on outcomes
In Q3, FRV continued to report against indicators in its Year One Outcomes Framework as well as seven indicators from its Year Two Outcomes Framework. FRV advises it will continue to report against both frameworks until at least the end of 2021-22 FY while continuing to refine indicator and measurement data in the year two framework. CFA has reported against its Year Two Outcomes Framework and recognises there are improvements to be made to link the measured data to outcomes. Looking ahead to year three, CFA’s continuous improvement approach to outcomes will mature, improving data quality and integrity, refining baselines and setting appropriate targets where relevant to demonstrate progress towards intended outcomes.
Adopting an outcomes approach is a long-term proposition for the fire services. Both CFA and FRV recognise that defining a clear message of what they are aiming to achieve requires an in-depth understanding of how measures and robust supporting data can be used to tell a meaningful story of impact and change.
This story is not yet clear. Both agencies continue to refine their outcomes, supporting indicators and measures. Settling this work will allow agencies to focus on the right data and information to make better decisions to improve service and program delivery for Victorians. In Q3, FSIM has presented the data provided by the agencies and made commentary where possible on specific trends, risks and successes, however a clear story of how each agencies’ activities and programs are influencing outcomes for the community is not yet achieved.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
FSIM has commented in previous quarters on the need to progress and finalise SLAs. The completion of clear, agreed, and implemented SLAs between agencies are fundamental to achieving complementary fire service and underpin the broader success of the Fire Services Reform. These SLAs provide a foundation for role clarity and functions for volunteers and staff in both agencies and are required to harmonise procedures. While FRV is the only agency to report on the progress of SLAs (as part of its year one framework), the reported 88% relates to agreements in principle, not executed agreements.
Almost two years into the reform, these agreements are not finalised. This has led to downstream issues impacting the community, staff and volunteers, outlined in further detail in section 4.2. There are significant challenges in finalising this program of work and FSIM considers finalising SLAs to be a priority for both agencies as they underpin agencies’ agreement on complementary fire service delivery.
The easing of COVID-19 travel and isolation restrictions positively impacted several indicators this quarter, particularly increasing both agencies ability to engage with the community. Both agencies have demonstrated a positive shift in their community engagement activities, delivering more engagement activities this quarter when compared to previous quarters. The easing of COVID-19 related restrictions meant CFA was able to leverage summer community events such as festivals and markets and FRV has experienced an increase in inquiries for its FireEd program. Given progress in these areas, FSIM expects to see a continued increase in the number of fire education and risk programs delivered in Q4.
FRV also reviewed its “Conversation in the Mess” program and changes implemented as a result of this review, combined with the easing of restrictions, enabled a significant increase in engagement with staff. While these results are encouraging and neither agency has identified any emerging risks for communities from a sustained reduction in community engagement activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, FSIM will continue to monitor engagement measures for any emerging risks to communities from the reduction of community engagement activities over the last two years.
Skills and training
Both agencies made progress in addressing skills maintenance and training gaps. CFA introduced a new “after action review” indicator – a positive step which will enable CFA to apply a continuous improvement approach to response activities and FSIM looks forward to seeing how the learnings applied from these after action reviews improves response activities. FRV has also undertaken considerable work to address the skills maintenance backlog in a number of specialist areas and is to be commended for their efforts to improve results.
Separately to the performance-based outcome activities reported in this quarterly report and following the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions in Q3, FSIM initiated a range of engagement activities, both virtually and in-person with staff and volunteers around Victoria and across both CFA and FRV. Volunteers and staff have been impacted by the reform in different ways and to different extents and have provided honest feedback about their experiences.
While FSIM’s engagement activities have not focused specifically on the agencies’ outcomes frameworks and performance measures, volunteer and staff experiences of the reform will certainly shape and impact agencies’ performance against some outcomes. Findings collated from these engagement activities will be presented in FSIM’s second annual report and we would like to acknowledge and thank those who we have met so far for their genuine commitment to work through the challenges presented by the reform.