Headlines: October 25th, 2006



For the first time combating anti social behaviour and reducing the fire risk faced by vulnerable youngsters is to be a mainstream activity for Fire and Rescue Services. A new Children and Young People strategy, which puts existing work by the Service on a more formal footing, has been launched.

The strategy, unveiled by the Fire Minister, Angela Smith, will also provide a framework for six key areas of working with young people. The Government believes it is making good progress on reducing the number of deaths in fires but believes there is more work to be done with children because they, especially those from poorer backgrounds, are most vulnerable to death and injury by fire.

The strategy covers active engagement with children and young people and their families; preventing and reducing crime and fire-setting by children and young people; diverting children and young people from fire crime and linked antisocial behaviour; educating them and their families in fire safety skills and responsible citizenship; ensuring that Fire Service staff working with youngsters are effective and professional and identifying and disseminating good practice in working with children and young people.

Figures show that young people are likely to be responsible for a large proportion of deliberate fires with about 40 per cent of all property and vehicle arson linked to youth crime and disorder. About two thirds of the 1,200 fires annually reported in schools in schools are started deliberately.

Angela Smith said there was no doubt that early and effective work with young people, as well as good education programmes, could reduce crime and make communities safer. She said the strategy would encourage more widespread use of existing fire and rescue initiatives such as those in Staffordshire, London, Essex and Tyne and Wear. It will feed into over-arching Government initiatives and enable fire and rescue Service to make a stronger contribution to tackling disadvantage.