In the last five years there has been a 50% reduction in deliberate fire-raising. In our interview with David McGown, Deputy Chief Assistant Officer with Scottish Fire and Rescue, he explains the crucial role of youth work in reducing criminal behaviour and improving communities.
What is your experience of youth work during your time with the Fire Service?
I have been with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) for 29 years. In that time I have seen a significant increase in our initiatives with youth work organisations, and we have developed a range of programmes to either develop young people’s skills or educate them on safety. Currently we have the ‘Fire Cadet/Young Firefighter’ schemes, multi-agency safety courses, ‘Fire Setters’ programmes and bespoke ‘FireSkills’ sessions. More recently, the SFRS has developed, and published, its Youth Engagement Framework, setting out why, and how, we will work with young people to promote safety and prevention, while developing their skills at the same time.
What has been the benefit to SFRS of working in partnership with youth work organisations?
Nationally, key agencies such as YouthLink Scotland, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament have been influential in the development of our Youth Engagement Framework.
Locally we have worked closely with many youth workers in the delivery of our services. This has enabled us to engage with a larger, and more diverse, group of young people than we would have been able to working on our own. It has enabled us to work with young people who may have previously been beyond the reach of our staff. This has also helped develop the skills of our staff and we have been able to access local training provided by our partners. For instance, in North Lanarkshire we have had front line firefighters trained in the Solihull Approach, helping them to understand the emotional wellbeing of young people, and how their life experiences influence the way they may react in certain situations.
How does youth work help you connect with young people?
The development of our services is carried out by our Youth Engagement officer, a role filled by an experienced youth work professional, registered with the Community Learning and Development (CLD) Standards Council for Scotland. Having this role within the service has been vital to ensure that our staff develop the appropriate skills and have access to resources that enable them to engage positively with young people. A youth work approach features strongly in our Youth Engagement Framework where we highlight the importance that the CLD regulations play in the development and delivery of our services.
Does the youth work approach need to be more widely recognised through national and local government policy?
I believe that youth work is already rightly gaining more prominence in both national and local policy. What makes a difference, however, is true partnership working at a local level. To provide positive opportunities for young people, and ultimately to improve communities, the value of youth groups, charities and public services working together cannot be overstated. Policy is required, but it is the practical implementation of policy which is crucial.
Deliberate secondary fires (involving grass, refuse, bins, etc) almost halved in 5 years (from 25,676 in 2010/11 to 13,533 in 2014/15). “We believe that our partnerships with the youth work sector, and our engagement with young people, have made a significant contribution to this reduction.”
T: 0141 646 4501 I W: firescotland.gov.uk | Tw: @fire_scot
David McGown’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here: http://ow.ly/iYRH301I9RJ