13th proves lucky for equality trail-blazer

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s efforts to engage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff, volunteers and communities have earned it the title of the UK’s best emergency service in an influential equality index.

It has ranked 13th in LGBT charity Stonewall’s prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2016 and is the best performing blue light organisation in the country.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Service has featured in the list, which assesses organisations ranging from local authorities to international investment banks against criteria including engagement with staff and communities, training and leadership. Last year the Service ranked 31st.

John Joyce, the Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, the body which oversees the Service said the achievement was a great reward for the organisation’s efforts around equality over the last year.

He added:  “We are delighted to be recognised by Stonewall as a leader for LGBT diversity. The index is a powerful way to help us demonstrate to our staff and the communities of Cheshire that we are here to support them.”

The Service was recognised in particular for its focus on supporting the community, by addressing the safety risks faced by LGBT people, especially those who live alone, those aged over 65 and young people - whom the Service engages with through Prince’s Trust programmes, cadet units, school visits and other safety initiatives.

The Service’s efforts to address homophobic abuse and other forms of bullying were picked out by Stonewall, including its use of LGBT youth ambassadors who support the delivery of LGBT and diversity training to team leaders and staff working with young people.

Chief Fire Officer, Paul Hancock who is also the senior sponsor of the Service’s LGBT staff Network Firepride, said: “I am so very proud of the staff in the Network and across the Service who have helped to cement our position as a pioneering employer of choice for LGBT individuals. To feature in the top 50 of the list over four consecutive years shows the value that we place on all our people.

“Despite progress, there are still very low numbers of visible operational gay and bisexual staff across the fire and rescue service. Our aim is to make sure that all our staff feel able to be themselves, give their all and be open at work. Participating in the Index helps us to shift perceptions and attitudes in order to help us achieve that.”

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall, said: "Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and all of those employers that secured a place in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers 2016 list performed fantastically this year. We have had more submissions than ever before and so making the list is a huge achievement. I'd like to thank all of those organisations for their continued efforts to ensure that their lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work and are accepted without exception."


  • The Service first entered the Top 100 in 2013 at number 45, before achieving 25th place in 2014 and 31st place in 2015 - when it was also the highest performing emergency service in the UK.

  • In 2014, Chief Fire Officer, Paul Hancock was named North West Senior Champion for his role in promoting LGBT equality

  • The staff Network Firepride was set up in 2010 and is open to all employees and volunteers, as well as staff working at North West Fire Control in Warrington.

  • Firepride was named as an inaugural ‘Awesome Network’ by the group Inclusive Networks in 2015

Photo caption: Staff celebrating being placed 13th in the Stonewall’s prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2016

Date published: Tue, 19 Jan 2016 10:23:04 GMT

Last updated: Tuesday 19 January 2016

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Staff celebrating being placed 13th in the Stonewall’s prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2016