Fire Minister meets Asian Fire Service Association

Khan: “There should be no limits to our ambitions in all areas of public life"

10th February 2009: Fire Minister Sadiq Khan today meets representatives of the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA) to see what more can be done to raise the representation of minority ethnic groups in the Fire and Rescue Service in England.

The Fire and Rescue Service as a whole lags far behind most of the other public services like the police in its recruitment of people from Asian backgrounds. Currently just 3.4 per cent of staff are from a minority ethnic background of which Just 0.4 per cent of all firefighters in England are Asian.

Out of nearly 45 000 operational staff, England has less than two hundred Asian Firefighters. In the police, one in twenty police officers are now from a minority ethnic background.

Fire Minister Khan said: "There is no doubt that the Fire and Rescue Service is making progress in becoming a more diverse, more representative public service. Fire chiefs have signed up and made a personal commitment to attracting new recruits from all backgrounds.”

He, however, acknowledged that the process of change is still too slow.

"We are living in historic times. We have just seen the election of Barack Obama in the US, just forty years after Martin Luther King Junior described a dream in which his children would be judged on the content of their character not by the colour of their skin. It is a profound reminder that there should be no limits to our ambitions – in all areas of public life."

Minister Khan believes it is not possible to have a good Fire and Rescue Service, without having a more representative service. He went on to say that: "To get the best possible recruits, we’ve got to make sure that everyone, regardless of background, thinks that the Fire and Rescue Service is a great place to work and offers a rewarding career. Evidence shows that a more representative Fire and Rescue Service can offer more effective fire prevention advice to our many communities stopping fires from happening in the first place through appropriate community outreach programmes."

Among those who have broken the traditional mould are: Vijay Randeniya (West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service) who is the highest ranking Asian officer in the country; Narinder Dial, the first female Asian firefighter, and Shaukat Khaliq, area manager in Cleveland Fire and Rescue Service.

Minister Khan hopes that others will also go out to schools, for example, to help inspire the next generation of firefighters – a generation which must include talented young people – boys and girls – from the Asian community.

Tejinder Ajimal chair of the Asian Fire Service Association said: "We are pleased to be invited to support the Minister to improve the representation of the Asian communities in the Fire and Rescue Service. We believe that it is not possible for any Fire Service to provide equality of service delivery when they themselves do not recruit and have evidence that they are representative of the very best of talent from the whole of the communities. We believe that we have provided evidence of our views to all stakeholders and that the service and its leaders now need to provide better evidence of leadership and commitment if they are to be believed they are serious on this issue."

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