Elen Thomas has become the peninsula’s first collaboration safeguarding officer in a joint venture between Devon and Cornwall Police and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service.
Elen, who has worked for CFRS for eight years, will be part of the police’s central safeguarding team based at Launceston Police Station.
Funding for the post has been made available by Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez as part of her commitment to collaboration and innovation between the emergency services in her Police and Crime Plan.
“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to support this collaboration. Throughout my current term as PCC I have invested in innovative ways to improve the service both organisations can deliver to the people Devon and Cornwall,” said Commissioner Hernandez.
“I look forward to seeing the benefits that our most vulnerable community members will reap from this project.”
The new role provides a link between both services and concentrates on identifying, developing, and delivering an effective and efficient response to safeguarding concerns.
“This role has evolved out of an earlier joint project which was designed to focus on arson – but which quickly identified safeguarding as a much greater issue,” said Chief Inspector Julian Pezzani, the police lead on collaboration.
“We were looking at how we could collaborate better to prevent arson but almost every day we identified a safeguarding case which needed addressing.
“One of the main benefits is to enhance timely exchange of information and ensure an appropriate level of response that is relevant to both services.”
Chris Wolstencroft, station manager for CFRS, said: “This innovative new role, which has already become the envy of other fire services, allows us to overcome barriers and realise those opportunities whilst ensuring supervision and accountability of safeguarding concerns raised by our staff.
“Elen will be able to utilise resources from both services to guide and mentor police and fire staff to ensure referrals are made correctly and to the most relevant partner agencies expediting the support received by the highest risk individuals within our communities.
“We are proud to be working alongside the police once again tod rive innovation to help the most vuonerable.”
The police use a vulnerable adult screening tool (VIST) to assess vulnerability and this creates a log which uses and a Red, Amber, Green system to inform the level of response required.
Those judged red or amber receive direct response from the central safeguarding team.
Previously, those judged to be less serious, or ‘green’, would not normally receive any response.
That’s where Elen comes in.
“My role will be another level or protection in the system by reviewing those green referrals, of which there are hundreds and hundreds,” she said. “If I identify a need, I can refer the problem back to the central safeguarding team with my recommendations for onward referral to another agency such as housing, children’s services, energy suppliers etc.
“Monday (1 March) was my first day in the job, and in the first week I have reviewed over 30 logs including cases that have involved dementia sufferers and children.
“Already in week one I have two cases where vulnerable people have needed support but would have been missed under the previous system.
“I can see how police and fire can streamline service and work together better, but I already know we are now going to catch people that would otherwise slip through the net.”
Neighbours call police to support an elderly lady who lives on her own and has been seen banging on the windows in the middle of the night, trying to get out of the house.
After attending the ladies home officers discover that she has quite severe dementia – she has carers and all the support is in place, but those carers and her son are locking her in at night to stop her from wandering off and getting lost.
In terms of safeguarding, the police VIST shows that the lady has everything she needs in terms of protection and carers.
But from a fire service point of view Elen identifies a huge risk – if she’s been locked in at night and there is a fire how is she going to get out and more importantly, how are the fire service going to get in?
There wasn’t really any need for further action by the police but from the fire service point of view it needed a referral.
But after review Elen, who has spent much of the last six years carrying out home safety checks for the fire service, ensures that the lady is visited to check on smoke alarms and ensure that a plan is in place if a fire does happen?