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Suffolk is leading the way with its joint emergency services cadets

PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:30 05 April 2017

Fire and Police emergency cadet training scheme at Bury St Edmunds. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Fire and Police emergency cadet training scheme at Bury St Edmunds. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Less than a year after it started, a joint Emergency Services Cadets group in west Suffolk is flourishing.

Group Commander Ken Williamson. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWNGroup Commander Ken Williamson. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Despite having one of the smallest and most efficient fire and rescue services in the country, Suffolk continues to punch well above its weight.

Along with the police and ambulance services, the county’s blue light collaboration work has been recognised as ‘pioneering’ by the Home Office which is using Suffolk as a case study for how it can be achieved.

Among other innovations, the police and fire officers were the first in the UK to start a joint Emergency Services Cadets group.

Initially launched in Haverhill less than two years ago, there are now cadet groups in Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds. Aimed at youngsters aged between 13 and 18, the scheme follows a curriculum that combines the skills and positive attitudes of the fire and police services to support and develop young people in the county. It gives them a chance to be a part of a team, promotes good citizenship and inspires them to make a positive contribution to the community. It also teaches them about the work of the emergency services, builds confidence and self-esteem, and encourages a healthy and active lifestyle.

Emergency cadet training in Bury St Edmunds. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWNEmergency cadet training in Bury St Edmunds. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Managed by Abigail Dowding, an on-call firefighter, and local police Sergeant Anna Whybro, the Bury cadets meet regularly at the fire station. SFRS Group Commander Ken Williamson who is based in Bury said: “The kids get to try out situations that firefighters might face and they get involved in practical skills such as ladder techniques. The equipment they use is exactly the same but smaller and everything is simplified for them.

“The whole idea is to encourage teamwork and make them more confident as individuals. It also makes them think about the role of the emergency services.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police & Crime Commissioner said: “By showing young people how to make positive life choices it is hoped they will become good citizens and develop leadership qualities that will help them to become more confident and principled adults.

“In my new police and crime plan I have reaffirmed my support to the cadets and I am very proud that Suffolk is leading the way nationally with the further development of the emergency services cadets.”

Fire and Police emergency cadet training 
scheme at Bury St Edmunds.
Firefighters David Starie and Paul Shattock.Fire and Police emergency cadet training scheme at Bury St Edmunds. Firefighters David Starie and Paul Shattock.

To find out more, call 01473 260588 or go to the county council’s website.

Youngsters aiming to become Fire Stars

Firefighters in Bury St Edmunds have started a separate initiative for young people, called Fire Stars.

Sam Varga at emergency cadet training. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWNSam Varga at emergency cadet training. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The three-year scheme for 10 to 15 year olds, which offers a registered NCFE qualification, is run by Bury firefighters David Starie and Paul Shattock.

It initially started via the Fire Fighting Fit and Healthy Programme at the station.

Mr Shattock said: “Some of the kids were showing a lot of potential so we decided to create a graduation scheme which offered something a little bit different. It is like a life skills program but with a lot of fun, including a full range of game based personal training activities.”

The programme has eight modules built around the eight points of the fire service star and covers the key elements of being a firefighter. Sam Varga, 15, is one of the Fire Stars. He said: “I really enjoy being part of a team. It’s totally different to being at school but you come out of it with extra skills and a qualification.”

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