Youth engagement schemes in Essex County Fire and Rescue Service are turning lives around and getting young people on the right track. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service's Youth Development team have won a prestigious national award for the work they have done with young people living with Down's Syndrome. The team have won the Fire Safety Education award at the Emergency Service awards, which took place in the Emirates Stadium in Arsenal, London in April. The award recognises projects and initiatives which have achieved astounding results in fire services the length and breadth of the UK.

ECFRS have held two Down's Syndrome Firebreaks in the last two years, working with Down Syndrome Extra 21 the course took around a dozen teenagers with Down Syndrome through a specially adapted firebreak course.
Firebreak develops young peoples' skills in working together, enhances their confidence, teaches them the value of working together and accepting responsibility as they undertake a series of challenging tasks including using the service's powerful hose reels, wearing specialist breathing apparatus, climbing ladders and rescuing people trapped in buildings and smoke logged rooms. One of the courses latest success story is a young offender who is turning his life around and even invited his elderly victim to see him passout after the course showed him the error of his ways. Patricia Buckmaster joined the 14-year-old's grandfather to watch him graduate from the course, designed to help young people get their lives back on track. The course had been organised in conjunction with Thurrock's Youth Offending team. Patricia, 76, and the boy had met two weeks before the course as part of court order conditions where offenders meet their victims to hear how their actions have affected others. The restorative justice approach is in line with parts of the ethos of the FireBreak course where instructors help young people to understand the consequences of their actions.
The teenager had fallen in with a bad crowd and had started missing school as his behaviour worsened to the point where he broke into Mrs Buckmaster's home. He was arrested and appeared before magistrates and was later given a series of community work including litter picking and community gardening.

"I wanted to invite Pat today to show her I was genuinely sorry and that I have changed. I hope she is proud," he said before joining his crew to take part in a specially staged fire drill with their family and friends. Pat, who said it had been difficult talking about the burglary at her home but felt it would bring some kind of closure.

"When we met, I knew he found it hard as well and I was impressed that when he came into the room he looked me straight in the eyes.

"I can see he is sorry and he's trying to put things right and he is making progress. I hope he goes on from here to do something positive with his life." Another youth engagement success story is that of Daniel King, a young man who had grown up through the care system but went on to pass one of the toughest challenges anyone can face and win a coveted place in the Royal Marine Commandos.
In 2007 Daniel joined a special course held in partnership between ECFRS and former High Sherriff Lady Dianna Kemp-Welch which took 12 looked after young people who were about to enter adulthood and leave the system.
The course helped prepare them for the responsibilities they would face in the adult world on their own, mixing vocational and educational activities designed to teach them the life skills they would need to find a career. Daniel had a long held ambition to join the Commandos, one of the most difficult military units to get into in the world. Throughout his time on the course, and for two years after the course ended, Daniel was mentored by ADO Terry Webb who gave advice and encouragement to help Daniel stay on track and keep working towards his goal. In 2009 he was accepted onto the Commando training course, a gruelling 39 week long programme, the longest infantry training course in NATO and one of the toughest in the world. Overcoming a severe medical condition during the training a proud Daniel passed the course and collected his much coveted Green Beret on March 11, watched by DO Martin Powell, who was seconded to the Lady Kemp-Welch partnership, and ADO Webb. DO Powell said: "I believe this is a terrific achievement and a good news story given all the adversities and challenges he has overcome.

"It is my belief that without the help of ECFRS, especially Terry who has supported him since early 2008, together with the Kemp-Welch partnership engagement we would be looking at a very different tale."


Posted: 09.30, 05.07.11,