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Fire Service innovates to support young lives in West Yorkshire during the Coronavirus pandemic

Young people in West Yorkshire have been able to look to a bright future during lockdown thanks to the fast and flexible work of the Youth Intervention team at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS).

The team usually spends hours out and about across the county, working with young people, partner
agencies, organisations and schools to educate young people and help them lead safe and happy lives.

When lockdown began in March the team quickly adapted their ways of working, took to their laptops and phones and set up virtual sessions, socially distanced doorstep meetings and even introduced new ways of learning so that young people could still continue their journey to success.

They were even joined by the Chair of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority (WYFRA) Councillor
Darren O’Donovan for one of their virtual sessions.

Since then, the team has carried out more than 20 fire safety education sessions via video calls and
supported one group to complete a programme remotely and achieve their Level 1 qualification – this
group were in week nine of a 12-week Prince’s Trust Team programme being delivered by the team at
WYFRS when lockdown was implemented, so learning had to be adapted so that it could continue safely.

And that’s not all.

During lockdown the team has also worked with Kirklees College and The Prince’s Trust to develop and
deliver an eight-week digital programme to ensure the young people of West Yorkshire can improve their prospects during this difficult time – one of just two fire services delivering such a programme in the UK.

Starting at the end of June and running for eight weeks, the Prince’s Trust Personal Development and
Employability Course sees nine young people from across West Yorkshire attend a busy schedule of
virtual sessions.

Each day they take part in virtual learning, online “Inspire” sessions that include live tours of a fire station and guest speakers from a range of organisations. As well as this, every young person has a mentor from the WYFRS Youth Intervention team who keeps in touch digitally and carries out weekly “doorstep” sessions to help them along the way.

A community project that’s usually part of the Prince’s Trust programme has also been given a new lease of life with participants building one element of a project at home, with all of the pieces coming together at the end of the programme to create one stunning piece of art at Fairfield School in Batley.

In addition to the art project the group are also working remotely with crews to create a fire safety video using Makaton for the students at the school.

For their most recent “Inspire” session, the group was joined by the Chair of West Yorkshire Fire and
Rescue Authority (WYFRA) Councillor Darren O’Donovan, who talked about his journey to where he is
today.

Councillor O’Donovan, said: “It’s fantastic to see how the team has adapted to the challenging situation
that we have all found ourselves in, and it’s wonderful to see young people so engaged and passionate
about their future. I was delighted to be able to join them on their most recent “Inspire” session and
hopefully opened their minds to the possibilities that a career in politics can bring.

“This work is absolutely crucial in educating young people and building communities that we can all be
proud of.”

Claire Wright, the Youth Intervention and Prince’s Trust Manager at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
Service said: “I have been astounded by the commitment that these young people have shown over the
last few months. Not only are they doing something really positive for themselves during lockdown but
they are also doing something really positive for the young people at Fairfield School. During really
difficult times, each and every one of them has stepped up and taken important steps in creating a bright future for themselves, and they have thrown themselves into everything we have asked them to do.

“The sessions help give the young people taking part lessons for life and opportunities so they can make
the most of their futures. To still be able to deliver this work during the Coronavirus pandemic is a
testament to the hard work of the young people, the team and our partners.”

Emma Townsend, Curriculum Area Manager for Student Engagement and Partnerships at Kirklees
College, said: “We are proud to have partnered with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to provide
our students with a multitude of positive experiences, including charity fundraising, volunteering and work experience. The programme has supported our young people to develop their social responsibility and transferable skills for their future.

“The Youth Intervention Team has worked extremely hard during these unprecedented times to allow our students to complete their final weeks of the programme. This high-quality provision has allowed our students to meet the needs of the local community and opened up other opportunities for them across the college.”