Domestic violenceLondon Fire Brigade has been rolling out a ground-breaking new scheme aimed at helping victims of domestic violence to rebuild their lives.

The course offers help and information for parents requiring psychological support, as well as those needing support in accessing education and employment services. While parents’ needs are addressed the course teaches their teenage children an array of life skills such as, first aid, online safety, healthy relationships, mental health wellbeing and team building skills.

The course was set up by firefighters in Bexley who were concerned about the number of domestic violence cases involving arson, with the Metropolitan Police reporting 94 cases of arson in domestic abuse cases across London in 2015.

Some 46 adults and teenagers have already benefitted from the pioneering course, known as Families Inspire Respect Security and Trust, or FIRST, which is aimed at 14-17 year olds and their parents or carers. The pilot, which began in February 2015, was such a success it is now set to be rolled out more permanently with a third course now underway.

Firefighters anticipate that by the end of the course last summer, 60 people attended, and they are expecting 120 attendees by June 2017. 

Adults can discuss their problems in a confidential setting and have an opportunity to access help and information, whilst their offspring are taught team building skills and practical skills. It is estimated that where there is domestic violence and abuse, children witness about three-quarters of abusive incidents. Firefighters aim to tackle this by building their self-esteem, provide discipline and teach team building skills.

Richard Welch, the Brigade’s Borough Commander for Bexley, who was the brainchild behind the project, said: “I kept hearing about domestic abuse cases involving arson and realised I had to do something to help. Ultimately, every firefighter does the job because they want to make a difference and I could see this course as a positive way of helping some of society’s most vulnerable people.

“The adults are given access to a wealth of resources and support services and the young people, many of whom are traumatised from what they’ve been through, are taught firefighting skills, which helps to turn their attention towards something positive.

“We wouldn’t be able to run this course without the invaluable help of our partners. The Metropolitan Police, the London Ambulance Service and the local authority are present at every session and provide a vital input. We also include other partners such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

“I love running the project, I feel like we’re making a real difference.”

We'd really like to hear what you think of these hugely important issues - the topics are central to the lives of all the people working in the emergency services - and beyond. Come along to FIRE’s Congress: Reimagining the Emergency Services: From integrated governance to integrated service delivery will take place at West Midlands Fire Service HQ on November 15. Have your say on the changes that are happening in your service.