1 ilfracombeFirefighters across England are going above and beyond their fire prevention work and are now supporting vulnerable people with issues including cot deaths, mental health, domestic abuse, and housing according to a new Local Government Association report outlining successful Service interventions.

Following the transfer of public health duties to local government, the Fire and Rescue Service is now “working in partnership with council teams” in a bid to become more collaborative, helping to combat a range of issues including cot deaths, drugs and alcohol abuse, fuel poverty, childhood obesity and youth unemployment.

Among the initiatives particularly praised was Bolton Council and Greater Manchester FRS working together to provide Moses baskets to vulnerable families to reduce cot deaths. In the first 18 months, 140 cots were distributed by community safety advisers for babies without a safe place to sleep. All new parents receive information of the service as a matter of course after evidence revealed that babies who co-sleep with parents, sleep in a pushchair, care seat or on the sofa are at greater risk.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The fire service has made a fantastic start in making health everybody’s business and yet still remains fully committed to providing the highest standard of emergency incident cover.

“With firefighters remaining one of the most trusted professions amongst the public, being uniquely placed to provide critical advice and support to our most vulnerable in society and teaming up with other local support teams, means that life saving measures can be put in place at very short notice.”

The ‘Beyond Fighting Fires’ publication suggests that as a “relatively untapped public health service”, the Service’s resources have the potential to “impact on virtually every important issue affecting health and wellbeing”.

Case studies published in the LGA’s report showcase how joining up fire and health and wellbeing services can make “a life changing impact on people’s daily lives”. Other initiatives highlighted include:
• Kent Fire and Rescue Service is now a national leader on dementia with almost 400 staff trained as dementia friends. Working alongside Staffordshire and West Midlands FRS they have drawn up a National Dementia Pledge calling for all FRS to sign up.
• Firefighters in Wigan have become health champions and are working with 20 different agencies. All 190 firefighters have received specialist training in public health and now offer advice during the 6,500 home fire safety checks made each year.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, added: “Over half of all fire related deaths and injuries in the home happen to people over 60 and we also know that impairment and disability increase the risk of harm from fires and other hazards in the home.

“For those living in situations beyond their control who can’t help being unsafe or for those who actually don’t realise they are in danger, this joined up working means that not only can we prevent fires and other emergencies, but we get to hear about those people who may not realise that they need extra help.”

To find out about more successful fire initiatives visit www.local.gov.uk