Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority *
Promoting equality and diversity 2010-13 – age
The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) in considering how to meet their public sector equality duty used statistics on deprivation and age. The indices of multiple deprivation indicate that 40% Merseyside wards are ranked in the top 5% of the most deprived wards in England. In addition, all the local authorities in Merseyside are within the top 20% of the most income deprived in England. There is a direct correlation between deprivation and greater risk from fire and various risk mapping techniques have been used to identify ‘hot spot’ areas where greatest effort may be concentrated to reduce the risk. The 20% most deprived wards are over twice as likely to have a fire or fire related injury as the 20% that are least deprived.
Like many areas of the country, Merseyside is seeing an increase in the percentage of older people living within its communities, with older age groups increasing in numbers. Older people are particularly vulnerable to fire with the vast majority of fire deaths occurring in the over 60s age group. Often this is accompanied by other factors that add to the vulnerability such as mobility and sensory difficulties, and a lack of ability to respond to danger. It was recognised that age can be a factor when identifying risks of fire or injury. The elderly are statistically less likely to have a smoke alarm than many other groups in society and additional factors such as living longer and consequently often living alone longer and the effects of limiting illness are added, the risks to this group increase.
MFRA has developed a risk model, which uses relevant data sets, including the Indices of Multiple Deprivation and local, historical incident response data. Weightings have then been used to represent the differing influence of these data sets on risk. All of these factors are then totalled, banded and then mapped by area to establish a risk map. Using the community demographic profile of Merseyside, the Merseyside risk map and the occurrence of incidents in relation to that information witnessed over the last three years, provides significant intelligence from which MFRA can use to target prevention and protection resources at the areas of greatest risk.
Customer Insight – Supporting vulnerable people
Intelligent targeting is the key to MFRA’s new approach. MFRA has developed a Customer Insight model which is the cornerstone of its home safety strategy. The model will ensure that MFRA not only target those most at risk but carry out interventions in the most cost effective manner, thus ensuring the satisfaction and well-being of Merseyside communities by giving them access to the services they need.
Customer Insight is made up of two sub projects: The first is to produce Community Profiles; maps that give MFRA details about the type of people that live in all areas of Merseyside. The second is a Vulnerable People Index, this allows MFRA to use information it receives from partners to target the people most in need of MFRA’s help, this includes identifying a vulnerability index by age to help target fire safety work.
MFRA employs a number of advocates (some are ‘older persons’ themselves) who work with older people and groups who specialise in services for older people. They have received training to ensure that the most vulnerable older people are receiving all of the welfare benefits to which they are entitled. In this way the Advocates tackle the root cause of poverty which in turn reduces an individual’s vulnerability to fire. For example, if someone cannot afford to pay their electricity bill they may resort to using candles or paraffin heaters, which can increase risk. As a consequence of our efforts many older people at risk have been able to continue living in their own homes.
With regard to fire related incidents, fires in the home pose the greatest risk to life and are therefore at the vanguard of MFRA’s Community Risk Prevention campaigns. Between 2004/05 and 2011/12 there has been a 20.4% reduction in Accidental Dwelling Fires; this equates to 308 fewer incidents, 14% reduction in those incidents which resulted in injury for the over 65’s over the same period.
MFRA Equality and Diversity objectives, set in January 2012, will remain a main focus during 2013/17 to continue to address the role of inequality in relation to fire and the resultant impact of fire on people’s lives, MFRA have set a number of equality objectives which support the Public Sector Equality Duties. They include reduction of accidental fires in home and the deaths and injuries caused.
* Equality and Diversity Forum submission to the Government’s Equality Duty Review [April 2013]