Communities can do amazing things when you let them

Staying Well, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Todmorden Community: A case study:

In late 2016 Calderdale Division Prevention Team of West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service contacted the Staying Well project to talk about how they might be able to help them pilot a new initiative about the way they conducted home fire safety checks.  They were looking to add value to their existing home fire safety checks, and also make sure that limited resources were targeted more effectively.

In Calderdale the Fire Service visit approximately 2000 homes a year, in the past this was conducted without any referral criteria, following a public consultation the fire service moved to a triage system whereby home visits were only undertaken for people who had vulnerabilities – frailty, ill health etc.   This was rebranded as a Safe and Well visit and the scope of the visit expanded to include looking at other risks in addition to fire safety, including risk of falls and social isolation.

Todmorden Fire Station was selected to lead the pilot, as whilst this is a retained station it is not staffed 24/7, consequently all members of the crew are required to live within 5 minutes of the station.  This also meant that they are known and trusted members of the community and already had a track record of working with community groups, and had strong links to the Dementia Friendly Todmorden group.

Through the Safe & Well visits the Fire Service were able to engage with people who were more vulnerable and identify where they might benefit from some additional support, such as advice and signposting to other services such as Staying Well, Social Services, Falls Prevention Services and other support and advice.  Often they were able to identify people who were not already known to statutory services and offer a referral to organisations and groups that could help people improve their quality of life.

This proved to be a very fruitful relationship and was subsequently augmented by linking people who attended the Daisy’s Café run by Dementia Friendly Todmorden into the Safe & Well  visits thus opening conversations about how people could access additional support to improve their quality of life.

This has culminated in Dementia Friendly Todmorden being successful in applying for funding to provide aids and equipment to people identified via the Safe & Well visits from the micro commissioning grants manged by Staying Well from the Community Foundation for Calderdale Todmorden Mental Health Commission funds. The equipment, such as easy grip cutlery and thermal plates and bowls, are available at the Daisy’s Café for people to try, and if they think that the equipment would be beneficial they are referred to the Fire Service for a Safe and Well visit.

This enables the Fire Service to visit the person at home, provide advice and signposting to other services and groups as appropriate and, thanks to the micro commissioning funding to Dementia Friendly Todmorden, provide the equipment for the individual to enable them to live more independently and improve their quality of life.  The service is often able to engage with people who would otherwise not be aware of what was available to help them and would be reluctant to involve formal statutory agencies.

As a result of the relationship between the Fire Service, Dementia Friendly Todmorden and Staying Well this initiative has resulted in vulnerable older people in the community being able to remain more independent and resilient, become more connected to their community and, through proactive preventative measures, reduce the need for more costly interventions by statutory health and social care services and reduce emergency hospital admissions.