You may have seen a tweet that I posted last week that celebrated the good work that we have been doing in raising the profile of some of our work through the media – both mainstream media and social media. Our ongoing recruitment campaign, our incidents, our community safety work and ‘Safer Communities’ consultation have all generated plenty of column inches, and kilobytes of download. This is, of course, all very positive and generates good publicity for the work that we do as a service, and helps to position us in the consciousness of the communities that we serve. I think that this is testament to the strength of the story that we have to tell.
We have also being doing some work to mark and publicise Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) History Month which is being celebrated throughout February. This is the latest in a series of initiatives run by our Diversity team to identify and share information and awareness around the many constituent communities of our service area. We have already explored issues faced by older persons and people with disabilities; we have marked Holocaust Memorial Day, Chinese New Year, Transgender Awareness Week, Black History Month and numerous others. We also plan to mark International Women’s Day in March too.
But what has all this got to do with the Fire Service you might say?
It is important to us as a service that we are seen to be representative, and equally important that our service is provided to all of those who need it. The events I describe above are promoted amongst our own workforce for them to experience and learn from, and for our community to let them know that we care. We also know that we have a strong brand and can influence public opinion, and where we can we should promote issues such as this. At a time a time when we are recruiting wholetime firefighters this is all the more important.
There is plenty of evidence to show that despite the decriminalisation of many issues that affect the LGBT community there are still barriers of inequality and discrimination that prevent LGBT individuals from accessing services such as those which we provide – most particularly in the areas around prevention and the whole ‘safe and well’ agenda. We know that active engagement with our service may be a problem and we have a duty to act and improve that access. Evidence tells us that mental health issues, social isolation and drug/alcohol abuse disproportionally affect the LGBT community. It will be lost on no-one that these are also significant vulnerabilities that contribute to people having accidental fires in the home.
Stonewall’s ‘Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in later life’ report (2011) demonstrates;
- 41% of LGBT older people live alone compared to 28% of heterosexual older people
- 45% drink alcohol at least three or four days a week compared to 31% of heterosexual people
- One in 11 have taken drugs compared to one in 50 heterosexual older people
- LGBT older people are more likely to have a history of mental ill health and have more concerns about their future mental health
- Three in five are not confident that social care and other support services would be able to understand and meet their needs
We do know that LGBT individuals often distrust officialdom, and do not readily engage with public agencies such as ourselves. We really want to change this because we think that we are nice people and we know that we are here to help. The promotion of the work that we do as part of LGBT History Month is a natural thing for us to do. The theme of the month of activity this year is a celebration of the activists and civil rights pioneers who fought for the decriminalisation and recognition of discrimination against LGBT individuals over the years.
We use the media to talk about the work that we do, and the type of organisation that we are. I think it is fair to say that we may not have much in common with the stereotype of the FRS that many will hold in their mind. A view largely informed by history, myth and a few TV shows. I hope that our work in areas such as the one that I have blogged about can help people to develop a more informed view of what our service really stands for.
You can read more about LGBT History Month HERE
If you are a WYFRS employee you may be aware that there is an event being held on Thursday 16 February, at HQ, entitled ‘LGBT History Unscrambled’. It’s a breakfast meeting with butties and hot drinks being served at FSHQ at 0840 followed at 0900 by a talk from WYFRS Control Operator, and FBU LGBT Representative Maggie Meszaros, plus special guests. If you’ve not RSVP’d to the invite for this event then please do so asap.