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People with learning disabilities make lives safer via fire funded scheme

The lives of people with learning disabilities and autism have been made safer thanks to a nationally significant fire service funded education project.

The scheme, believed to be the only one of its kind in the country, has seen people with a range of learning disabilities or autism play a leading role in developing a fire safety workbook, DVD and other educational resources suitable for one of the most excluded, vulnerable groups in society.

The project aims to help people with learning disabilities and autism to live more independent lives, by improving their understanding of issues like kitchen fire safety, escape routes and what to do in an emergency.

With the education resources created, the charity has now recruited and trained ‘fire safety champions’, to share the information and advice with other vulnerable people in South Yorkshire.

It’s the first time Rotherham-based charity Speakup Self Advocacy has worked with a fire and rescue service, following a £58,000 grant from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve.

The organisation has been working with Government departments and national organisations for 28 years to develop information and training, which is suitable for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

Speakup’s Geoff Doncaster, said: “Traditionally public services issue a lot of well meaning advice and information to vulnerable groups, whilst failing to recognise that a lot of people with learning disabilities have either no reading skills or struggle greatly with written information. Also, people with autism may need information given to them in a slightly different way, for example on video. What this funding inspired us to do was give people the tools to create resources which will make a genuine impact in terms of protecting their peer groups from the dangers of fire.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue vulnerable persons advocate Dianne Fox, said: “There’s a definite gap currently in the quality of information public services offer to people with autism and learning disabilities. By working with an organisation which specializes in delivering education and information to these vulnerable groups, we think we have been able to develop a suite of resources which is truly groundbreaking for a UK fire and rescue service.”

Dozens of registered charities, community organisations and partner agencies came forward to apply for grants from the first round of the £2 million the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve fund, which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

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This content was last updated on August 04th, 2015