The story of a South Yorkshire man whose life was transformed by safety staff is being used to highlight the fire service’s positive impact on the county’s high risk residents.
Fire officers say the work of their firefighters and community safety teams goes much further than preventing house blazes and that, in many cases, no other agency is better at putting vulnerable residents in touch with the support they need.
The resident whose story they are highlighting was referred for extra support after safety staff visited his home to fit smoke alarms, and noticed that he needed help from a range of other agencies.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Community Safety Manager Amanda Thompson, said: “A housing provider made a referral for a man called John* to receive a home safety check, whereby fire service staff visit someone’s home to talk to them about preventing emergencies and to fit free smoke alarms where needed. The fire service staff who visited immediately raised concerns about the John’s living conditions.
“Following the initial home safety visit, arrangements were made to carry out a joint visit with a housing officer after several failed attempts to gain access to the property. The resident would not engage with the housing officer, however he did allow our community safety officers to enter some of the rooms, albeit reluctantly.
“Our staff found the property to be in a filthy state. The house was cold and damp and the resident said he could not afford to put the heating on and did not have any hot meals- just cold sandwiches. He had limited mobility and had a mobility scooter, but he had to lift this over the threshold and up and down two external steps. Our staff also learned that John used a colostomy bag and his clothes were also very dirty. He was also known to be alcohol dependent.
“As a result of our visit, an urgent call was made to a care team and for a full needs assessment. By building up a relationship with John, our staff pushed for him to access a number of other services which he might not otherwise have accessed.
“Those services included housing repairs and a deep clean of the property and access to a specialist social worker who reviewed John’s finances, meaning that he could heat his home.
“We also provided ‘hot pack’ meals, arranged for a delivery from a local food bank, worked with a local charity to provide extra clothing, located a new microwave and kettle and provided a ‘warm pack’ containing blankets, soups, thermal hand warmers, gloves and socks.
“John’s progress is being monitored by a social worker together with follow up visits by fire service staff and a housing officer. John is now much more receptive to engaging with services and his general health and well being and living conditions improved as a result of our intervention.”
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue visits more than 20,000 homes every year to fit smoke alarms and provide safety advice. This includes hundreds of repeat visits to people who have been identified as being particularly high risk.
For more information about organisations signing up to become referral partners with the fire service, visit www.syfire.gov.uk/ safe-well