Firefighters and community safety officers from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) have reached more than 17,000 homes during the first year of new ‘safe and wellbeing’ visits.
Safe and wellbeing visits began on 15 February 2016 as part of CDDFRS’ successful programme of community safety work.
The visits replaced ‘home fire safety checks’, which had long been at the core of CDDFRS’ community safety programme helping to drive down incidents of fire in the home.
The new visits incorporate extra elements based on wellbeing and providing support and practical help to improve health and quality of life, when and where appropriate. The visits were introduced as part of a national initiative aimed at improving quality of life for those who could benefit the most from early engagement with local services.
CDDFRS area manager, Keith Wanley, who has overall responsibility for community risk management, explained: “As part of our community safety work we visit thousands of homes each year. Our firefighters and community safety staff are trusted professionals who help people from all walks of life. We have been building on this trust over the year by offering wellbeing support. This includes providing information from our partner agencies (health providers, local authorities and charitable organisations) and making referrals to them should people take-up initial offers of support and advice.
“This could be preventing slips, trips and falls, which are a big risk for elderly people in their homes; providing details about access to schemes to help people keep their homes warm, or health initiatives such as smoking cessation and reduction in alcohol consumption. In addition, our crews are able to refer those affected by dementia, as well as loneliness and isolation, to experts who can provide the care and support required.”
Between 15 February 2016 and 31 January 2017 CDDFRS made 1,878 direct referrals to partner agencies.
One area of particular success has been work to help those people living with Dementia and their families. On 12 February last year CDDFRS chief fire officer Stuart Errington and the chair of the Fire Authority, Councillor Michele Hodgson, signed a charter pledging the Service’s commitment to improving engagement with those living with dementia as a Dementia Friendly Organisation.
In November CDDFRS was the only emergency service in the UK to be nominated in the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Awards 2016; CDDFRS was a runner-up in the category ‘Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year (Private and Public Sector - large).
Andrew Ball, the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Action Alliance project manager, said: “We are very proud to be a partner in this project; CDDFRS has certainly led the way in turning understanding of dementia in positive action. Since February 2016 it has made 121 referrals into the Alzheimer’s Society enabling people to access the vital support and services needed when coping with a diagnosis of dementia. I am looking forward to another positive year.”
Figures collected in 2016 showed that CDDFRS carried out the second highest number of home visits in the country (per 1,000 dwellings).
The high priority that CDDFRS has placed on reducing the risk from fires in the home has contributed to the 4.2 per cent reduction in accidental dwelling fires in 2015-16, placing the service fifth best performing nationally.
The same figures showed that CDDFRS was the best performing Service nationally for business fire safety audits (per 1,000 non-domestic premises). These audits are carried out to ensure that business premises across the county and borough are safe for employees and visitors.