Bexley firefighters help victims of domestic abuse
PUBLISHED: 15:13 14 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 14 April 2016
The initiative has been awarded White Ribbon status in a first for the UK fire service
A groundbreaking scheme has been launched by firefighters in Bexley with the aim of helping victims of domestic violence to rebuild their lives.
The course - Families Inspire Respect Security and Trust (FIRST) - offers help and information for parents requiring psychological support, as well as those needing assistance in accessing education and employment services.
Children are also taught a range of life skills, including first aid, online safety, healthy relationships, mental health wellbeing and team-building skills.
Bexley firefighters set up the course due to concerns about the number of domestic violence cases involving arson, which numbered 94 across London in 2015, according to the Metropolitan Police.
The initiative is the first set up by the UK fire service to receive the prestigious ‘White Ribbon’ status for work in the community on domestic abuse.
Richard Welch, the Brigade’s borough commander for Bexley, 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.
Forty-six adults and teenagers have already benefitted from the scheme, and this is expected to rise to 60 by the end of June.
Mum of seven Kelly, 44, who suffered years of domestic abuse, said: “This course has been fantastic, it has helped me and my boys. They were skipping school but after the course I’ve seen such a change in them – over the weeks their attitude and behaviour has completely turned around.”
Mr Welch added: “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.”