Should on-call firefighters take on social care?


A new job combining the skills of an on-call firefighter with a social care role could be developed in Cornwall, with the aim of reducing loneliness and social isolation in our communities and better supporting people who self-neglect. A laudable aim but are the two roles compatible? Will it help retention within the on-call fire service?

Cornwall Council says:

The proposal is part of a report that was presented at Cornwall Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board today (23 January). It describes how many of the tasks that firefighters and social workers do cross over, such as fire safety in the home, people falling and injuring themselves, the risk from poor housing structures and lack of repairs, and the effect this has on a person’s well-being.

Social workers in Cornwall have been working hard to tackle some of the challenges involved in helping someone who self-neglects. It is estimated that 2750 people in Cornwall are at risk of self-neglect behaviour which can often result in harm coming to them, for example, through hoarding or by not managing the upkeep of their home.

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for adults, Rob Rotchell said: “Often, someone who self-neglects will be reluctant to accept help but it is hoped this new role will start to overcome this. Firefighters are traditionally people that most people trust and will allow into their homes to check things such as smoke alarms and trip hazards. They are then easily placed to support the individual by looking at the whole home environment and what improvements can be made to improve their health, safety and wellbeing.”

Cllr Rotchell added: “Research studies demonstrate that self-neglecting older adults reduce their participation in social activities and have a reduced informal social support network, again increasing their risk of coming to harm.”

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for environment and public protection, Rob Nolan said: “This is an exciting new role, combining a number of skills which we hope will encourage more people to be an on-call firefighter. The recruitment and retention of this significant part of the workforce are becoming increasingly difficult so we want to make the role more appealing to a wider cross-section of the community.”




  • Binzy Reynolds says:

    A good idea in theory but what happens if a firefighter is committed in a care role and their pager goes off? Human decency says they won’t be able to abandon a vulnerable person mid-care, (using the bathroom for instance), then there is a risk lives may be lost if the pump can’t turn out to a fire shout/RTC. Sadly it is a fact of our times, relatives of a vulnerable person will probably seek financial recompense from the Fire Authority in such a case, or indeed if lives are lost in a fire when the pump can’t turn out due to the crew being employed as carers. It would be interesting to know if this proposal has actually been initiated by firefighters or a healthcare manager looking to save money. Either way, it may be worth asking our firefighters if they would actually like to carry out this new role.

    • Kate says:

      But any on-call firefighter could be in job where they can’t always leave immediately. Indeed, there may already be on-call FFs who are employed in the private care sector. It’s a fact of life with the on-call system that not every FF can turn out every time even if they are theoretically available. At least this way they can have a job with guaranteed permission for release – not every employer is willing to release people in work time.

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