Fire service cost saving plans debated by Authority

Fire service plans to meet an annual £4 million cash shortfall have been debated by its governing Fire Authority.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s final proposals were presented to members on Monday (16 September), having considered responses to a consultation exercise which were broadly supportive of the main cost saving option put forward- to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine from five to four.

Voting on the proposals, members decided that if no viable alternative to achieve the level of savings predicted is identified, then the adoption of four firefighters on all frontline fire engines would be implemented in 2020/21. But they also called upon the service to spend the rest of this financial year exploring alternative methods of achieving the required savings and to recruit firefighters to reduce the amount of money it is currently having to spend on overtime.

Fire officers had already made a series of commitments in response to the consultation. Those commitments included investing in technology to help firefighters on the incident ground, regularly monitoring the service’s performance in relation to sickness and safety and only implementing the change at as many stations as it needs to in order to meet the financial shortfall.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, said: “In responding to the consultation feedback, we’ve already described the savings we’ve made to protect our frontline service and we will continue to explore further options, as directed by members. However, whilst we would rather not make any changes to our frontline service at all, we’re pleased that the Fire Authority has acknowledged that riding with four firefighters on a fire engine remains a viable solution should we be required to implement it.”

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.

Fire and police youth course participants secure William Cook roles

A South Yorkshire teen has started an apprenticeship with a major Sheffield manufacturing firm, thanks to a fire and police led youth course.

Jay Woodhead, aged 17, from Wybourn, Sheffield started work at William Cook Cast Products after completing Princes Trust Team Programme- a 12 week development course that’s jointly run by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police.

Jay will be employed in the moulding section and will travel to Birmingham once a month to fulfil his training obligations.

Jay said: “If it wasn’t for the Team Programme I would still be sat in my bedroom wondering why no-one was offering me a job. This has focussed my job search and the impact has been proven by the number of positive responses I have received since. I am really looking forward to starting my new apprenticeship and would like to thank everyone for the help getting here.”

He’s the second course participant to have secured employment at William Cook, after Joe Rodgers earned a role as an apprentice pattern maker. He’d previously spent a fortnight on work experience at the firm- walking an hour and a half to get to work each day.

Joe, aged 22, from Parson Cross, Sheffield, had been long term unemployed. He said: “Team Programme really helped me improve myself for the better. It improved my prospects and gave me a clear path to a job that I am loving. I never saw myself in this role and instead thought I would work in retail. My time on work experience really opened my eyes to the jobs available. I would like to thank John, Andy and all the team at The Prince’s Trust and Kevan at William Cook for the opportunity of work experience that led to this role.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police teamed up with the Prince’s Trust to deliver the Team Programme three years ago. During that time more than 200 young people have benefited from the 12 week personal development course for unemployed 16 – 25 year olds, offering work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community projects and a residential week.

The courses are based at fire stations and are the only programmes of their type in the country to be jointly delivered by fire and police services. For more information or to sign-up, email princestrust@syfire.gov.uk

Fire service issues safety warning after risk assessor prosecuted

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has welcomed the prosecution of a fire risk assessor, saying it proves that there are consequences for failing to comply with safety laws.

David Thompson of Toftwood Health & Safety Solutions was fined £750 and ordered to pay a £170 surcharge and £1,000 costs at Sheffield Magistrates Court on Friday (23 August) for failing to provide a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

Thompson pleaded guilty to the offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The offence related to a risk assessment carried out at Hexagon student accommodation on Rockingham Lane, Sheffield.

Ashgate Property Developments Ltd had already been fined £36,000 at an earlier hearing for three separate offences relating to the same premises.

In summing up this case, the judge said that competence is knowing when you yourself aren’t able to do something – and that risk assessors should recognise the limits of their experience and expertise.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This verdict should serve as a stark warning to building owners that people carrying out fire risk assessments should be competent and able to properly consider all of the risks within buildings, particular where people’s lives could be placed at risk.

“The sentence in this case proves that people will rightly be held to account if risk assessments are found to be insufficient.”

Anyone with queries regarding business fire safety can contact the service’s specialist inspection team here.

Police and fire youth programme to celebrate 20th course achievement

The only Princes Trust youth development programme in the country to be jointly delivered by the fire and police services has helped more than 200 young people since going live three years ago.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is on the cusp of delivering its 20th Princes Trust Team Programme– most of them delivered in conjunction with South Yorkshire Police.

Team Programme is a 12 week personal development course for unemployed 16 to 25 year olds, offering work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community projects and a residential week.

Courses have been delivered in Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield and are always based at fire stations.

Ryan Ibbeson is among the young people who’ve been helped by taking part in the course.

Speaking at his graduation event in front of family and friends, he said:

“Before I came onto this programme I was simply sat in my bedroom doing absolutely nothing and pretty much wasting my life playing games and staying up all night until four in the morning. My head was also in a really bad place at the time to a point where I was sometimes thinking that there was simply no point of me being here anymore.

“But this course has made me believe that I’m here for a reason. What’s helped me more than anything is the people I have met as they have been fun to talk to and have always managed to keep me in a good mood.”

Another participant Shima Nazari said: “The programme helped me more than I thought it would. They helped me realise that if I put my mind to something, I will get something in return. I loved the team and wish I was able to do it again and again.

Head of the police and fire services’ joint community safety department Steve Helps, said: “We know that people’s life chances are determined early- which is why we think it’s so important to give people the skills and confidence they need to live their best life. We’re proud of the impact we’re made on more than 200 people and look forward to welcoming another batch of young people onto our twentieth programme.”

If you’re aged 16 to 25 and not currently in education, training or employment, sign up by emailing princestrust@syfire.gov.uk.

Young Barnsley homeless safer thanks for fire funding

Dozens of young homeless people in Barnsley are safer from fire, thanks to Fire Authority funding.

Centrepoint Barnsley has helped more than 110 people aged 16 to 25 by giving them training in fire, road and water safety ahead of them moving into fresh accommodation.

The charity has also distributed specially designed ‘move on packs’ containing everything from fire retardant bedding to safe cooking equipment- helping to give young people the safest possible start in their new homes.

Some have even been awarded ‘move on grants’ to help them buy reputable white goods, like fridges and tumble dryers. This avoids them buying cheap, dodgy appliances online which could put them at greater risk of fire.

Jacob, aged 23, and Megan, aged 17, are amongst the young people who’ve been helped under the scheme.

The couple were referred to a Centrepoint service in 2018, having been homeless for several months and sleeping in a local park. Megan was four months pregnant at the time of her arrival and the main concern for Centrepoint was to ensure that the family had a home to move in to when their baby was born.

The pair engaged in education modules at the fire and police service run Lifewise centre and were able to achieve qualifications in fire, road and water safety. This supported their application for a tenancy and they moved in to their own property a couple of weeks before their son George was born.

Megan and Jacob were also able to apply for a good quality white goods appliance for their property- an important safety measure for people on low incomes. Megan is now looking after George and Jacob enters into employment very soon.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “We were clear from the start that we wanted the funding the Fire Authority had made available to help us reach people in our communities who are most at risk of fire. The practical support and meaningful education this project has delivered to a targeted group of vulnerable young people is a brilliant illustration of how we’re achieving that goal.”

Centrepoint Barnsley works with the local authority and partners in the town to provide support accommodation. Along with a safe place to stay, it offers technical and practical support to help young people move on to live independently.

The charity’s ‘Engage, Educate, Encourage’ project was awarded £50,000 under South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve. The fund reinvests money into local communities to support our work to prevent emergencies. The money has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

Free moped and scooter training for young riders

South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership (SYSRP) is offering free moped and scooter training to young riders, as part of its work to reduce the number of young people killed or injured on the region’s roads.

The partnership  is giving all 16 to 24-year-olds who live or work in the county the chance to take part in extra training with a qualified instructor.

CBT Plus is aimed at riders who have recently passed their Compulsory Basic Training with the aim of improving their skills and confidence.

Joanne Wehrle, SYSRP manager, said: “This training opportunity forms a key part of our work to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads – statistics in which the 16-24 age group has been consistently over-represented.

“The course is usually £75 but thanks to funding from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, and a link up with local training providers, we can now offer it completely free of charge.

“We really hope that young people will take advantage of this offer and get the additional time with experienced riders.”

CBT Plus is a three-hour session and is designed to help riders to spot potential hazards earlier and react with greater confidence while overtaking, filtering, cornering and negotiating junctions, while also making them safer riders.

The session also includes discussions on the benefits of wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to carry out basic vehicle safety checks which will also reduce running costs.

Joanne added: “CBT Plus offers a perfect opportunity to build on the knowledge and skills that riders learn during their basic training.

“The course is designed to enable riders to handle real-life road situations and meet the challenges of the county’s busy road networks.

“Offering further training will help them to get more enjoyment out of their scooter or motorbike and hopefully get them interested in becoming long term motorcycle riders.”

Further information about the scheme can be found on the Safer Roads Partnership website (sysrp.co.uk/cbtplus) where you can also apply for your code.

Riders must sign up by Monday 30 September.

Fire safety warning after property developer sentenced

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the prosecution of Sheffield property developers for flouting fire safety laws at city centre student flats serves as a stark warning to landlords and developers.

Ashgate Property Developments Ltd was fined £36,000 when the firm was sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates Court on Tuesday (20 August 2019). The company was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs totalling £12,719.

The company pleaded guilty to three offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 relating to a student accommodation block on Rockingham Lane, Sheffield.

Following fire safety concerns raised by a resident, inspecting officers from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s business fire safety team visited the premises in October 2017.

During the fire safety inspection, and subsequent follow up visits, the service identified a number of serious fire safety concerns. These included the fact that there was poor fire separation between flats and the corridor escape route at the time that tenants moved in to the property. Dust covers had been left on smoke detectors and a roller shutter door which could have been used as an escape route in the event of a fire was found to be inadequate.

Inspectors issued an enforcement notice to ensure the defects were remedied and a prohibition notice preventing the roller shutter door from being closed at night.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This verdict should serve as a stark warning to property developers and landlords that they have a duty under fire safety laws to ensure people sleeping in premises they’re responsible for are safe from the risk of fire”.

“If we find people are ignoring these responsibilities we won’t hesitate to prosecute and the sentence handed down in this case shows that the courts take these matters just as seriously as we do.”