The family of a trainee firefighter who took his own life two years ago have called on the London Fire Brigade to issue a public apology for the ‘multiple failings’ they say played a part in his death.
On the second anniversary of Jaden François-Esprit’s death on Friday, François-Esprit’s mother, Linda François, a 55-year-old NHS worker, called for major changes to the fire service to avoid similar tragedies.
The fire department conducted an internal investigation into his death, which reportedly made 24 separate recommendations for change. A second wide-ranging survey is due out in November, looking at broader issues of culture within firefighters.
In her first interview since the death of her son, who died just three weeks after his 21st birthday, she told the Guardian that Francois-Esprit had raised a series of concerns about what he believed to be bullying, harassment and racism during the Wembley fire. position where he worked.
Francois said: “I never imagined a future where Jaden would not be present in our lives. Myself, his siblings, our family and our friends are devastated by his passing and struggle to function daily knowing that we will never see our beautiful Jaden again.
He was proud to have been accepted into the London Fire Brigade as a new recruit at the age of 19 and was excited to embark on a career as a firefighter.
He suffered from dyslexia, a condition he reported to firefighters at the recruiting stage and on several occasions thereafter. But he told his family he was not getting proper support, especially with writing assignments.
He had no mental health issues when he joined the fire service, according to his family. But towards the end of his life, his mental health had deteriorated sharply. He made 16 transfer requests to work at other stations but these requests were not granted and he remained at Wembley where he grew increasingly unhappy.
His family said he raised various concerns about his treatment, including being teased for eating traditional Caribbean food, given the nickname “lazy boy” which he hated, and being teased for eating traditional Caribbean food. to have been humiliated by the reprimands given at the tannoy station.
He also worried that he would not get adequate support for his dyslexia, an initial decision not to assign him a mentor and not give him a locker for several months.
At her February 2021 inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, Senior Coroner Mary Hassell dismissed what Francois-Esprit had told his family before his death that he had been the victim of bullying and racism at the fire station, and said there was not enough evidence to link these issues to his suicide.
The coroner, however, stressed the need for managers to be more sensitive to the mental health of firefighters.
François-Esprit provided a statement to the inquest that his son had been isolated at work because he was from an ethnic minority, because he was the youngest firefighter in his care for several years, and because of his dyslexia, all concerns her son had repeatedly brought up with her.
Following the investigation, London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe announced an independent study into LFB culture to be published in November. He said a culture of casual racism and misogyny remained so prevalent in some pockets of the LFB that his own daughter of mixed heritage might not be treated with “dignity and respect” at some fire stations.
Françoise said she wanted more accountability from LFB managers, for staff to feel able to raise the alarm without fear of reprisals and for mandatory learning support and training for managers in order to help support people with conditions like dyslexia. She questioned why officials failed to ensure her son’s safety at work when family members alerted fire station officials to their concerns for Francois-Esprit.
“The London Fire Marshal has pledged to make legacy changes to Jaden. To enable this change, we must first recognize the failures that have occurred,” she said.
“Jaden kept telling us, ‘I’m not getting the support I need.’ We are waiting for an apology for the multiple failures Jaden has experienced. We want organizational change in Jaden’s honor so that no other employee experiences the trauma that led a passionate and healthy young man in his prime to experience a mental health crisis and untimely death. .
Roe said: “The thoughts of everyone in the brigade are with the family and friends of firefighter Jaden Matthew François-Esprit on the anniversary of his death. Clearly not enough has been done to support Jaden during his time with the London Fire Brigade.
“Shortly after Jaden’s death, an internal investigation made 24 recommendations and seven more were added following the coroner’s report on preventing future deaths. To date, 28 of the 31 recommendations have been finalized, including the establishment of an independent cultural review, chaired by Nazir Afzal OBE, which is due to deliver its conclusions in November.
“I would like to reassure the public that bullying, discrimination and harassment are not acceptable in the brigade. We take all allegations of bullying seriously and have strict policies in place, to which all staff is required to comply.
In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis helpline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines are available at befrienders.org.