Joint service initiative tackles gun and knife crime

Over 42,000 South Yorkshire school children have received an educational awareness presentation on the consequences of gun and knife crime

South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue have delivered a gun and knife crime programme to over 42,000 secondary school children across South Yorkshire, as part of their Joint Community Safety Department.

The ‘Guns and Knives Take Lives’ programme, was specially developed by both organisations to raise awareness of and educate young people on the dangers of guns and knives, and supports the work of Operation Fortify, the county wide approach to tackling serious and organised crime across South Yorkshire.

To deliver this programme, members of the department visit local secondary schools to provide a presentation highlighting the hard-hitting reality of the dangers and potentially devastating consequences of carry guns and knives.

During the 50 minute presentation, Information is delivered on gun and knife law, recent statistics, the emotional impact, consequences and real life testimonials, along with details of Operation Sceptre – a national knife crime awareness operation.

Following the success of the programme, which has been delivered to 60 schools in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield since its launch in May 2017, plans are now in place to roll out the programme to the remaining schools across South Yorkshire, along with delivery to new Year 7 groups.

Steve Helps, Head of the Joint Community Safety Department, has commented on the importance of the programme, “Gun and Knife crime has increased in recent years and it is extremely important that we are able to work proactively within our communities to raise awareness, provide support and educate young people on the consequences and impact of guns and knives.

“The responses we have received so far illustrates the positive impact this is having on our communities and I’m looking forwards to continuing to roll out the programme to the remaining South Yorkshire schools in the coming weeks.”

Chief Superintendent Una Jennings, Head of Operation Fortify for South Yorkshire Police, added “Our commitment to tackling serious and organised crime in South Yorkshire goes far beyond bringing offenders to justice. Guns and Knives Take Lives allows us to reach out early so that the young and vulnerable understand their choices, and the far-reaching impacts of their decisions.

“The consequences and risks of carrying weapons are incredibly serious and it’s absolutely vital that young people understand the devastation they can cause.”

The Guns and Knives Takes Lives programme complements, and forms an element of the work of, the Joint Community Safety Department to provide specialist early intervention services to protect vulnerable people, reduce demand and keep local communities safe.

As well as delivering this tailored intervention in schools, the Joint Community Safety Department also offers bespoke events at the Lifewise Centre in Rotherham and other early intervention services designed for the needs of local communities.

To find out more about the Joint Community Safety Department and the Lifewise Centre, you can visit the website here.

Extra mental health support for firefighters announced

South Yorkshire firefighters are to get extra mental health support, chief officers have announced.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has published its first ever health and wellbeing strategy, which will put in place extra measures to supercharge support, ditch stigmas and change the culture around mental illness.

Specific help it plans to put in place include using British Red Cross specialists to provide fire crews with psychosocial support following traumatic incidents.

More than a dozen staff from across the organisation will also be trained up as peer support workers, meaning they too can visit crews after critical incidents.

The service also says it will invest in a 24/7 telephone counselling service, which any member of staff can contact for issues ranging from stress and anxiety, to money worries.

More information will also be made available to staff, telling them where they can get extra help if they are struggling with their mental health either inside or outside of work.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “Mental health has never had a higher profile nationally, but it’s a particularly important issue when talking about 999 staff who deal with traumatic incidents almost every day.

“We already offered lots of support to our staff, but it’s only right that we look to continually review and update the support we offer, adopting learning from other sectors and making our organisation the best it can possibly be as a place of work.”

The service already has its own in-house occupational health unit, access to counselling services, staff support networks and MIND Blue Light Champions- volunteers with an interest in mental health who can offer a listening ear.

A 2019 Mind survey found 85 per cent of fire and rescue workers had experienced stress or poor mental health whilst working for the emergency services.

Fire service publishes details of 50 ways it is collaborating with other 999 services

South Yorkshire’s fire service has published details of 50 ways it is working with other blue light services to save time, cut costs and deliver a better service to the public.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has unveiled the list to show local people the ways in which it is working more closely with the region’s 999 services, from training and community safety work, to shared teams, equipment and buildings.

50 Ways We’re Collaborating

Highlights of its collaborative work with South Yorkshire Police include a joint community safety department, shared police and fire station in Maltby and more than 1,500 hours of training that’s been jointly delivered to over 500 members of staff.

It’s also working with Yorkshire Ambulance Service and neighbouring fire and rescue services on everything from drones and operational learning, to buying cutting gear and fire kit.

The Policing & Crime Act 2017 placed a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The bulk of the collaborative work undertaken by SYFR both before and after the Act came into force involves South Yorkshire Police, although the fire service says it is also working closely with the ambulance service and other local fire and rescue services.

SYFR Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “The benefits of collaboration with the police, ambulance and other fire services have always been about more than saving money. For us, it’s about delivering the best service we possibly can to the people we serve. Whilst we still believe each of the emergency services should retain their own unique skills, brand and specialisms, we want to show local people that we are serious about putting them first and providing them with the most efficient and most effective service possible.”

South Yorkshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said: “We welcome every opportunity to work with our blue light partners to achieve greater impact and realise efficiencies for the tax payer. Whilst it is essential we continue to focus on our specialist areas of work, there are areas in which we can collaborate to achieve a more effective and efficient service.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “It is fair to say that historically the individual services, other than at emergency incidents, have operated mainly in isolation. There are of course positive examples of previous joint-working but true collaboration has been resisted partially through the fear of a loss of individual identity. To some extent necessity has enabled services to look at collaboration  through fresh eyes and outside of the financial considerations there’s a realization that by working together, the services we offer to the public and the ways we function can be greatly improved.”

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “The collaborative work between South Yorkshire’s Fire and Rescue Service and the Police precedes my time as Police and Crime Commissioner.  But I have sought to move that on at pace by chairing a joint collaboration board which has overseen much of that work. As a result I think we can demonstrate both greater effectiveness and greater efficiency, including cashable savings. It is not easy bringing two very different organisations together. They have different cultures and histories.  But we are showing that we can work well together if we put the interests of the people we seek to serve first.”

A new strategy outlining South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s approach to collaboration will be published next month.