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London Fire Brigade launches independent review of workplace culture after death of Jaden Francois-Esprit

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The London Fire Brigade today announced an independent review into its workplace culture and how the organisation treats young recruits following the death of a trainee firefighter.

Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21-year-old, from Wapping, was in training at Wembley Fire station when he took his own life in August last year. 

Following an inquest in February, Coroner Mary Hassell said it was clear that Mr Francois-Esprit had felt “isolated” and expressed concern that his mental health struggles had gone “undetected by those around him”.

She told the LFB bosses: “Action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe that you have the power to take such action.”

In an interview with the Standard, Commissioner Any Roe said Mr Francois-Esprit’s death had sent a “profound shockwave” through the LFB.

He promised the independent probe would take a “robust” look at the organisation’s culture, after an internal review “unearthed tough questions about how we train young firefighters and introduce them to station life”.

Mr Francois-Esprit’s family had alleged that he was being bullied due to his race and teased at the station about his packed lunches of Caribbean food.

Colleagues told the inquest that he was “bored” and “frustrated” by the job but denied claims of bullying. 

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe

/ London Fire Brigade

Commissioner Roe said Mr Francois-Esprit’s family had “posed some very searching questions to me and to the Brigade” and said the LFB had a responsibility to “get the answers to those questions”.

“It was clear from the coroner’s own advice and recommendations that potential causes for Jaden’s death were quite wide-ranging,” he said.

“This is a 21-year-old man who should have felt valued at work, not lonely or bored or unheard. We lost one of our own.

“He was one of our own and I think we have to own that, and the responsibility for making sure we get the answers to those questions.”

The review will examine issues surrounding mental health as well as race and gender, with internal data showing that ethnic minority recruits are less likely to promoted and more likely to be subject to formal and informal discipline.

London Fire Brigade delivers millions of units of PPE across the capital

Women are underrepresented at all levels, the Brigade found, and around two-thirds of its lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender colleagues do not feel comfortable disclosing their identity at work.

Commissioner Roe, a former army captain who trained at Sandhurst, joined the LFB in 2002 as 27-year-old trainee and took over the top job from Dany Cotton in January last year.

He said the LFB was facing “wider societal issues” like many other organisations and insisted that he wanted the workplace review to pass the “credibility test”.

“It needs to be genuinely independent,” he said. “We need to invite people in without fear of the consequences and act as good organisations do, which is to take that change forward.”

“This review is about making sure we’re driving forward the sort of change that our exceptional people deserve and this exceptional city deserves.”

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