The Social Action & Research Foundation’s Tale of Two Cities report provided reflections and recommendations on the riots that took place in Salford and Manchester, and used the events last summer as a starting point for wider debate on some of the major social policy issues that exist. The report suggests that we should consider a fundamental shift in the delivery of public services away from responding to emergency issues, and towards new delivery models that are rooted in early intervention and towards a culture of prevention.
As we noted throughout the report, the Social Action & Research Foundation did not claim to be inventing a brand new model for our public services – much of this is already underway. As it has moved from a purely responsive organisation to one that focuses on prevention over the last fifteen years, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service embodies this transformation perhaps better than any other public service.
Indeed, whilst Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service played a key role in responding to emergencies as they arose during the riots last summer, the impact of the organisation’s prevention activity within Greater Manchester’s communities is long term and far reaching, albeit less ‘visible’. Therefore, we should make sure that we learn from the lessons that this move towards a culture of prevention has involved.
Apprenticeships are one way GM Fire and Rescue is involving and helping young people.Photograph:AlamyGreater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has adopted a strategic approach that involves working more closely with the communities in which the Service is embedded, which is followed by a range of structured programmes designed to be able to deliver practical changes. From this an impressive range of innovative approaches have emerged that are being undertaken in Greater Manchester by the Fire and Rescue Service – which are often targeted to the greatest areas of need.
These include developing Community Safety Apprenticeships to provide young people with the skills to successfully enter the labour market, whilst increasing their self-esteem, responsibility and sense of belonging. Through collaboration with the Prince’s Trust, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has engaged with one thousand young people who have acquired in excess of two thousand academic qualifications. These are practical solutions to some of the issues highlighted in our report, not least in terms of youth unemployment and disengagement.
Elsewhere, innovation can be seen in Greater Manchester’s model of Community Budgets – these pool the resources of public sector providers in order to gain the best possible outcomes for our communities. A fundamental aspect of this is developing connections between public sector agencies. For instance, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have developed intelligence relating to sixty thousand homes that are deemed most at risk of fire; these homes are often the same as those which require other public services. Therefore, sharing such information and expertise can have a real impact at reducing the strain on resources, whilst at the same time providing the conditions for more successful interventions at an early stage.
A model in which public services are working more collaboratively in sharing resources and knowledge, as well as a culture of early intervention, is a huge step forward in terms of challenging some of the worst effects of poverty in our communities and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service can shed light on how this can become a wider reality.