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Firefighter role to be combined with social care in new role for Cornwall

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.

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 crossover, 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.

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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 on-call firefighter. The recruitment and retention of this significant part of the workforce is becoming increasingly difficult so we want to make the role more appealing to a wider cross section of the community.”

The Care Act 2014 identifies self-neglect as a safeguarding responsibility and defines it as covering a wide range of behaviours including neglecting to care for personal hygiene; health or surroundings and hoarding. It isn’t always easy to determine a root cause but it can be a result of a person’s brain injury, dementia or other mental disorder; obsessive compulsive disorder or hoarding disorder; physical illness which has an effect on abilities, energy levels, attention span, organisational skills or motivation; reduced motivation as a side effect of medication, addictions or a traumatic life change.

The proposals are part of the health and social care chapter of the New Frontiers document and are designed to secure better health outcomes for all residents, reduce the employment rate gap for those with a long-term health condition and enhance community resilience.  The council’s aim is to ensure that everyone has the chance to lead an enjoyable life and to increase confidence and independence.

Other suggestions in the document include devolving building regulation powers that would see sprinklers installed in all new build homes, the development of a more flexible, blended workforce capable of utilising technology enabled models of care and support, and testing new technology enabled methods of care such as robotics, Artificial Intelligence, aids and adaptions.

Story posted on 23 January