Partnership Helps Looked After Young
People Achieve Their True Potential

Ten young people, who are soon to leave care and face the world, have passed out from a special ECFRS Firebreak course staged as part of a ground-breaking new initiative.

The youngsters, aged between 16 and 19 years-old and all come from the Southend area, are taking part in the High Sheriff of Essex Multi-Agency Looked After Partnership.

It is a nine-month course which will provide the youngsters with a unique mix of vocational and educational activities, all designed to teach them not only the life skills they will need to enjoy their future, but also the skills to find fulfilling and financially viable employment.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has dedicated an officer to working full-time on the scheme and is completely committed to its success in improving potential outcomes for this vulnerable group of young people.

The course is divided into three parts: engagement, empowerment and employment and the Firebreak scheme marks the first third. The already highly successful ECFRS youth initiative is designed to helped the young people learn that they can achieve anything they put their minds to and is built on basic fire service ethics and disciplines.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson said: “We wholeheartedly support this scheme and hope that this is just the start of a very successful partnership working with the High Sheriff .

“I see schemes like this becoming core to the work ECFRS does - working with young people, allowing them to see just what they can achieve and helping to improve their lives and their futures. This is something we are completely committed to as a service and will be doing more and more of in the future.

“To be able to use our position of respect in the community to get through to vulnerable youngsters is something we all find tremendously satisfying and is now an important part of the work that we do.”

High Sheriff, Lady Diana Kemp-Welch said: “I am extremely proud to be championing this partnership. There are 90,000 vulnerable young people living in Essex and unless we help them, their outlook can be quite bleak. We hope that this is just the first course that we run and more and more young people like these can have their lives turned around.

“The course could not have got off the ground if it wasn't for the enthusiasm shown by the Fire Service and the dedication of Martin Powell who is working whole time on this partnership for ECFRS.”

Martin Powell, Project Manager Essex High Sheriff Multi Agency Partnership, said: “This Firebreak pass-out today has been the culmination of months of work by the young people involved. They have all worked so hard.

“On a personal level, it has been fantastic to watch them all grow as people in the three months. They have become like a family to me and I have watched with great pride as they have all seized this opportunity and taken everything from it that they can.”

Stacey Taberner, 18, one of the young people taking part in the course said: “This week we have been learning the importance of teamwork and we have all pushed ourselves to do thing we wouldn't have thought we could do. I have impressed myself, and been impressed by the others, with what we have been able to achieve.

“”we have all had to work up ladders, which can be quite frightening at first, and we have worked in the pitch black in the breathing apparatus chambers as well a loads of other things.

“I like that this course has given a chance to people in life no matter what they have been through and it has shown all of us that we just have to get out there and try hard and we can all achieve what ever we want.”

The scheme involves key agencies from the statutory, voluntary and private sectors and it is led by the High Sheriff of Essex, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and Southend Borough Council.

By the end of the programme each young person should have achieved a number of challenges culminating in accredited qualifications enabling them to attend a business and education fair specifically targeted at their chosen life path. This should lead to the opportunity of placement in further education or gainful employment.