Agenda item

Kent Fire and Rescue Service - Ian Thomson (Assistant Director for Community Safety) and Richard Stanford-Beale (Research & Development Manager - Community Safety)


1.            The Chairman welcomed Ian Thomson, Assistant Director for Community Safety and Richard Stanford-Beale, Research & Development Manager – Community Safety, both from Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS).  Both guests were invited to introduce themselves and gave a background to their work. 


2.            Ian explained that KFRS was involved in loneliness and social isolation because of the correlation between health issues and fire fatalities and injuries. The root causes of loneliness and isolation were often the issues which put people at greater risk from fire. Social Isolation also meant people might not access services such as Safe & Well visits.


3.            KFRS also aimed to make every contact count by encouraging healthy choices and making appropriate referrals into other services - for example by referring people to stop smoking services. There was a correlation between health issues, fire fatalities and injuries, and injuries were higher in single occupancy homes.


4.            Older people are at greater risk from fire and KFRS targeted people over 70 years. NHS provide anonymised data to identify addresses of people over 65 years old.  Richard explained that although age was a risk factor it was a fairly ‘blunt instrument’ and KFRS was continuing to develop methodologies to ensure it prioritised the highest risk individuals.


5.            Ian and Richard gave the Select Committee a presentation which is available online here or via this link:


6.            The presentation set out a number of issues which might impact on people’s health, social circumstances were a significant factor. 


7.            Referring to the impacts of loneliness on health, there was a clear link between a high use of medication and falls risk. Medication could also put people at risk from fire, for example, by impeding their decision making or reaction times if they have a fire.  Loneliness had been identified as having a significant cost to the emergency services.


8.            Ian explained to Members that KFRS was also co-responding with the Ambulance Service.  Officers were able to respond to certain category calls including cardiac arrest and many staff had also received mental health first aid training.


9.            For KFRS prevention was key, over 50% of people who died in a fire had probably done so before the first phone call was made to the emergency services.  There was a strong recognition that all the workforce could have an impact in terms of people’s health.  KFRS were an additional public health workforce to work with other public services to help meet the challenge set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View.


10.           Referring to making every contact count, KFRS would take every opportunity to talk to someone and have a short conversation about health issues.  There were good examples of where KFRS was working with Public Health, work was being done to support the delivery of local plans and KFRS would like to be more involved.  In relation to making a referral KFRS would usually ask for consent except where there is an immediate risk or a safeguarding issue.


11.         Richard explained that a trial had been run in Medway, this involved KFRS identifying whether people might be socially isolated and making them aware of local groups they might be interested in attending. KFRS had its own volunteers who would visit an individual 2 or 3 times but that wasn’t sufficient.  If an individual was really socially isolated time was needed to build confidence to join a group.  


12.         A Member asked how much contact KFRS had with the community warden scheme.  Ian explained that they worked within the Kent Community Safety Team and issues could be referred between the teams.  It was considered that there could be better communication on the ground.  There was a greater need to understand the role of each agency.


13.         One of the key points around KFRS was that it was a trusted brand, it was able to access homes where other services were not able to.  Richard explained to Members that KFRS had the capacity to do more.  They had been very successful at reducing the number of fires and incidents had dropped by about 50% in ten years.  Discussions were continuing between the NHS and KFRS about how they could work together to continue promoting preventative measures.  


14.         The Select Committee discussed Safe and Well visits. KFRS aimed to complete 20,000 visits this year and hoped to increase this further in future years.  These visits looked at behaviour of the individuals in the home as well as environmental factors, for example housing quality, clutter, electrical safety, trip hazards etc. KFRS would offer to remove rugs for example if they were a trip hazard and re-route cables etc.


15.         Richard explained that the Exeter data was used to identify addresses housing someone over 70 years to offer them a Safe and Well visit.  KFRS were keen not to blanket visit everyone, this was not considered to be a good use of resources.  Those who were entitled to a Safe and Well visit were:

a.    Anyone 70 or over;

b.    Anyone 5 or under;

c.    Anyone smoking in or around the home;

d.    Anyone with a disability;

e.    Anyone who had any other reason to feel unsafe at home;

f.     Referred by a partner agency. 


16.         A Member praised the fantastically efficient work of KFRS at an incident near his home, however it was considered that the age for a Safe and Well visit should be reduced.  Ian explained that this age was set because those under 70 were more likely to be mobile so less likely to be killed or injured in a fire.  Residents might be younger than that but fit into another category and therefore eligible for this service – para 15 refers.  KFRS engaged with 7000 high rise residents last year following the fire at Grenfell.  


17.         A Member asked what more KCC could do to help?  Ian explained that KFRS would like to be able to get to more people needing the service and would like to get more referrals.  Those residents at highest risk were usually known to other agencies, if they were housebound there would be additional risk in case there was a fire.  KCC commissioned telecare services and KFRS had offered to contribute towards the cost of smoke alarms being fitted as part of the telecare systems funded by KCC when a Safe & Well visit was also completed. This offer had so far been declined.


18.         Ian explained that KFRS were also working with KCC on the Growth and Infrastructure Framework. 


19.         In response to a question from a Member about why KFRS focussed on the elderly Ian explained that fatalities and casualties increased sharply from the age of 70.  Around 80% of the fire fatalities in Kent over recent years involved someone over 70 and people over 80 were 4 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a fire.  Falls were also a big issue for this age group. 


20.         Hoarding was considered to be a big fire risk and this was almost always a social isolation issue as well.  All agencies should be informed that any hoarders should be referred to KFRS.  KFRS were working with the Kent & Medway Adult Safeguarding Board to strengthen the Self Neglect Policy to fully incorporate hoarding.


21.         The Select Committee discussed the ‘Haircare Network’.  In this initiative KFRS engaged with local hairdressers (because hairdressers were well placed to have conversations with people who might be socially isolated).  This scheme got a lot of people interested but didn’t get enough leads and it was not possible to maintain the scheme.  This may have been because KFRS wasn’t as selective as it could have been. A similar scheme could be developed with the support of other agencies.


22.         There was also an initiative called ‘show you care’ with Cheryl Baker, which encouraged people to build social networks or enjoy a cup of tea once a week with someone who might be lonely or socially isolated. 


23.         KFRS also provided winter warmth packs for residents with heating issues etc.  It had a range of volunteers who assisted with giving safety advice and going out on incidents with fire fighters if required. 


24.         A pilot was underway with Maidstone hospital and Pembury hospital to promote Safe & Well visits to targeted groups e.g. in maternity, frailty units, older people, smokers etc. 


25.         In relation to attended cases of stroke a Member asked how many KFRS attended for category 1 and 2 and whether this information could be circulated? POST MEETING NOTE:  This information has been circulated to Members.


26.         In response to a question about what more could be done to reduce social isolation and loneliness Richard explained that it was a complex issue, the positive branding of KFRS had resulted in a good take up of social media which was useful for sharing information.  In relation to the Haircare Network it might be possible to replicate this with other services such as vets for example.  There were thoughts that these initiatives would be more effective if they were run together as partnership. 


27.         There were views that loneliness and social isolation was a societal issue which was difficult to change.  KFRS did not have all the answers but was willing to provide assistance.  Another Member considered that a cultural change could happen quickly, because of the need for it to do so. 


28.         The Chairman thanked the guests for attending the Select Committee hearing and for answering Members’ questions. 

Supporting documents: