The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) have both supported the need for action to be taken to address critical issues presented in the Food Standards Agency’s Local Authority Capacity & Capability Report, which highlights the urgent workforce challenges within the Environmental Health (EH) and Trading Standards (TS) professions.
The FSA and Food Standards Scotland launched its latest report, “Our Food in 2022”, not only highlights the current challenges of recruitment and retention but also clearly identifies the critical need to draw new talent into EH and TS to ensure the continued protection and enhancement of public health and consumer safety.
A survey published in 2020 found that trading standards officer staffing levels fell between 30% and 50% across the UK between 2008/9 and 2018/19. It also found that just over half of the local authorities in the UK did not believe they had sufficient expertise to cover the full range of trading standards responsibilities, and that the ageing trading standards workforce was a threat to future professional capacity.
It is a call to action that both CIEH and CTSI are answering with a commitment to strategic collaboration and innovation in a bid to build sustainable professions in both EH and TS. Professor Susan Jebb, Chair of the Food Standards Agency who helped launch the report in Parliament, said that increasing capacity in Trading Standards was a key priority for the agency.
As part of a broader engagement with its membership community, CIEH plans to launch a new member engagement survey. This survey is designed to capture a wide array of member views on a variety of issues, including workforce, training, and professional development. The findings will inform the ongoing work of the CIEH ensuring that our actions are deeply rooted in the experiences and needs of our members.
To confront the complexities outlined in the report, CIEH is looking forward to the establishment of the Workforce Satellite Panel in the New Year. Drawing on the findings of the member engagement survey, along with the extensive knowledge pool of member-led Advisory Panels, the Satellite Panel will seek to engage a wide array of stakeholders, including those from CTSI, to address the workforce challenges. It is through this collaborative approach that innovative and sustainable solutions for the EH and TS workforce can be found.
CTSI has also taken a number of steps to address some of these challenges:
CTSI has recently completed a review of its Qualification Framework to make it fit for the future. CTSI has also simplified the learning and development requirements by developing standalone food and feed competency modules. These modules will be offered to local authorities to allow their officers to gain food and feed competencies in line with the current Codes of Practice to deliver official controls. CTSI has also been working in partnership with the FSA to promote and provide high-quality CPD learning and development to address competency gaps.
CTSI is dedicated to showcasing the appeal of a career in TS by raising the profile of important areas like food standards. CTSI has undertaken campaign work to shine a spotlight on the risks to the public around allergen issues with vegan food as well as showcasing how attractive a career in TS can be with the Anything But Standard campaign.
CTSI would welcome further collaboration with the FSA and Local Authority regulatory stakeholders to ensure that individuals in Trading Standards pathways have a clear understanding of routes to qualification, competency requirements and progression through their careers.
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, said:
"The health of our communities and the wealth of our economies are inextricably linked. The professionals within our sectors are the custodians of this balance, tirelessly working to protect our communities in their workplaces and living environments. As we navigate through economic challenges, the intrinsic value of environmental health and trading standards roles must be recognised and championed.
The decline in resources and focus on environmental health and trading standards has been of concern for many years. CIEH are dedicated to creating a positive future for both professions ensuring they are seen as attractive and vital career choices for the next generation. Our soon-to-be-launched member engagement survey and planned Workforce Satellite Panel will both play a pivotal role in this endeavour, by giving invaluable insights and by strategising on ways to attract, develop, and retain talented professionals who are fundamental to our mission for safer, cleaner, healthier environments for all.”
Phil Owen, Service Delivery Director at CTSI, said:
“Local government regulatory services are the front line of public protection, ensuring citizens have safe food to consume and products that are safe to use. Trading Standards and Environmental Health ensure that in times of national crises such as avian flu and global pandemics, they are there to respond. CTSI’s own analysis, based on consultations among its professional membership of frontline Trading Standards professionals across the country is that the situation is at a critical juncture - if investment is not made soon then there will be no competent officers available to deliver these essential Trading Standards services to protect the public.”