London Fire Brigade's Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) scheme is being used to help rehabilitate teenagers at Feltham Young Offender's Institution.

Since it was launched in 2002 the Brigade's LIFE programme - where young people learn practical firefighting skills alongside frontline firefighters - has put thousands of teenagers on the right track, said a Brigade spokesperson.

Now the Brigade's flagship youth engagement scheme is part of Mayor of London Boris Johnson's 'Time for Action' programme which aims to boost young Londoners' access to opportunities and reduce crime and youth violence.

Around 78 per cent of young people sent to custody in London re-offend within two years of being released. A key part of the Mayor's programme is to prevent re-offending by identifying those young people most motivated to change and providing intensive support to prepare them for release.


LIFE for Young Offenders 

As part of that programme a total of ten LIFE courses will be run at Feltham Young Offender's Institution over the next two years, to the benefit of around 120 young people. They will be delivered alongside other education and training by partner organisations - all of it geared to reduce re-offending rates and to help the transition from custody back into the community.

The arrangement is funded by Rathbone, a UK-wide voluntary youth sector organisation which provides opportunities for young people. The charity also provides continued support on their release to prevent reoffending.

During the week-long LIFE course young people learn how to use breathing apparatus, are taught casualty rescue techniques, run out hoses and perform problem-solving tasks - all of which are designed to improve motivation, self-esteem and team building skills. They are also taught the consequences of behaviour like arson or making hoax 999 calls. The challenging week culminates in a passing out parade in front of friends, family and carers.

London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said: "We are proud to be working with our partners to support the Mayor's Time for Action programme. LIFE has a fantastic track record of making a real and positive difference, both to the lives of those who attend the course and also to the wider community. Hopefully young people leave with the motivation and sense of social responsibility that will make a wide range of opportunities available to them in the future."


LIFE Stats: 

  • Since it began in Tower Hamlets in 2002 the Brigade has run around 470 LIFE courses to the benefit of around 4700 young people aged between 13 and 17 across London
  • There are now nine LIFE teams across the capital taking referrals from agencies and working with young people from most London boroughs
  • Because of the success of LIFE in London, seven other fire and rescue services in the UK are now using the scheme. It is also being adopted by New Zealand Fire Service
  • Evaluations have shown that participants with a history of offending or anti-social behaviour are less likely to engage in this behaviour after taking part
  • The Brigade says that hoax calls and deliberate fires are decreasing across London, and LIFE has helped drive those figures.


 Photo: Young people participate in previous LIFE courses undertaken on London Fire Brigade's training grounds