Working mums could be the answer to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s (SFRS) recruitment problems, according to a councillor.
Tory Tina Mountain’s comments came in a council committee meeting on Monday (July 1) following her visit to neighbouring Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
She said it was Hampshire’s use of working mums to carry out the prevention and safety work in schools and businesses that impressed her.
“Working mums lends itself to going into schools to speak to the children to talk about fire safety and training to prevent fires rather than having to deal with them,” she said.
Cllr Mountain said she had noted the working practice of Surrey with eight day shift cycles – four days on and four days off – meant sometimes the firefighters were working 28-hour days.
She said: “One thing that impressed me was the chief firefighter said he had included the firefighters in the changes so as the changes came into fruition they weren’t complaining as they had made the changes and I think that’s needed in Surrey.”
Fire service’s social media campaign
Women who work or live within four minutes of a fire station are now being targeted in a social media campaign to boost firefighter numbers as part of the latest bid by SFRS to transform the struggling service – which wants anyone working or people looking to change careers.
Retained firefighters is a voluntary role and people must live or work within four minutes of an on-call fire station. They can choose the hours they can work and carry out the same role as a full-time firefighter, but without a salary. A fee is given for certain functions such as call-outs.
Cllr Mountain said mums could dictate the hours so it fitted in with the school day.
Surrey County Council recently carried out a consultation on changes proposed to the service, which includes closing some stations at night.
Surrey’s chief fire officer said the changes were not being made to save money.
More on the fire cuts
Steven Owen-Hughes, SFRS chief fire officer, told a meeting this week: “We have been really clear this is not about cuts. It’s about changing the way the fire service works. If that delivers greater economies then that’s great.”
Leading the objections to the changes have been the firefighters themselves who say they are concerned they will not be able to carry out their work properly under the planned closures and changes to working practices.
A petition calling for the plans to leave seven fire appliances unmanned at night has now reached nearly 12,000 signatures.
The service was heavily criticised by government inspectors at the end of last year, who found “serious concerns” with its effectiveness and efficiency and must improve on how it responds to and prevents fires.
Criticisms by government inspectors
The working group set up in response to the report gave its first update at the communities, environment and highways and select committee on Monday.
The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) found “serious concerns” with SFRS and its effectiveness and efficiency.
Proposals include spending more time on prevention and educating residents and businesses about the risks of fire.
The service also wants to make changes to Banstead , Camberley , Egham , Fordbridge, Guildford , Haslemere, Painshill, Walton and Woking stations with night cover being provided by neighbouring stations.
It is also looking to “recover costs” from non-emergency call-outs – such as freeing trapped animals and persistent false automatic fire alarms.
This content was originally published here.