Youngster reap benefits of new course

A YOUTH intervention scheme run by the fire service in Essex has been hailed as a huge success after nearly 800 youngsters completed the course.

Elliot Furniss

A YOUTH intervention scheme run by the fire service in Essex has been hailed as a huge success after nearly 800 youngsters completed the course.

In the past two years 92% of the 822 disaffected or disruptive 13 to 17-year-olds referred to the Firebreak course completed it successfully.

Run by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, Firebreak sees youngsters take part in a five-day course looking at many aspects of firefighting and health and safety, encouraging them to become more positive and aspirational.

The progress being made by so many of the teenagers was acknowledged by the Essex Fire Authority at a meeting this week and Donna McBride, the service's head of youth development, said it was down to the hard work and dedication of the firefighters who lead the course.

She said: “It is successful primarily because of the firefighters we have got who give up their days off to do it. They're a pretty impressive bunch.

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“Firebreak has been running for four years and in the past two or three it has become extremely popular and the results we are getting are fantastic.”

She said youngsters could be referred to the course for a wide range of reasons, from those suffering with low self-esteem or self worth to those who had been getting into trouble at school or committed fire offences.

She added: “We hope it instils some self-discipline and self-worth in them and promotes teamwork and ensures that students make the most of their own and others' potential.

“We do monitor the students and ask for feedback. If someone has performed particularly well we put them on the list to join the Young Firefighters 17-week cadet scheme.”

The report to the authority, compiled by Chief Fire Officer David Johnson, details the effectiveness of the scheme in helping to prevent re-offending and proposes a mentoring scheme to allow students to seek advice about other courses and career choices.

Also in the report is a letter and poem written by one youngster who has completed Firebreak, which is run at centres in Colchester, Braintree and Chelmsford among others.

The youngster writes: “I would just like to say thank you for allowing me to do this course, I really appreciated this opportunity.

“It has really boosted my confidence and made me realise that I can do things. My mum said it was like I finally found my voice.”

After completing the programme the teenagers get a chance to take part in a passing-out parade in front of their teachers, parents or guardians and show how much they have achieved.

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