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How the Fire and Rescue Service can Help Young Girls with their Wellbeing

Young girls put through fire service training

Hosted at Weymouth Fire Station, the course targeted girls aged between 12 and 16 who had been referred by local schools and youth work professionals.

SPARC is a tailored development programme designed to promote empowerment in a positive environment, whilst also encouraging teamwork and the supporting of others. The five-day course was a bespoke programme designed to meet a local need that had been identified by local professionals almost a year ago.

The programme aimed to build confidence and show the participants that it’s ok to feel anxious about taking on new challenges and, that with a bit of support and a few coping techniques, they can achieve their goals. The week culminated in a ‘pass out’ display where the group demonstrated their newly gained skills through practical scenarios and received their certificates of achievement from Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell.

“The course was a huge success, with all 11 young people completing the five days and gaining an AQA Award in Fire Service Youth Training. Prior to starting, the young people had the opportunity to tell us their hopes and fears for the week, and most said ‘anything to do with heights’. Despite their reservations, they all climbed the 13.5 metre ladder and went up in the cage of the aerial ladder platform, which extends to 32 metres.

This was an example of excellent partnership working. The need for positive activities for this cohort had been identified at the Weymouth and Portland Health and Wellbeing Forum, and we thank Weymouth Town Council for providing some funding to enable this course to happen. We are indebted to Dorset Council’s Chesil Family Partnership Zone, who recruited eligible young people for the course and also provided a youth worker throughout the week to help support the girls. We also received support from Dorset Mind, in the form of one of their volunteers who attended all five days to help us embed emotional wellbeing sessions throughout the week – we can’t thank them enough for their commitment and expertise.”

Rob Guy, Youth Intervention Manager at Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service


 “In my capacity as a Dorset Mind volunteer, I had the privilege of supporting 12 amazing young ladies on the SPARC (Safer People and Responsible Communities) program at Weymouth Fire Station.

It was the first time the program had been adapted for an all-female cohort of teenagers dealing with various personal challenges in their lives. Working alongside a team of operational firefighters from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service (whose skill and professionalism cannot be overstated), I was entrusted with delivering the daily emotional wellbeing sessions. We explored the benefits of getting out of our comfort zones, emotional literacy, making sense of anxiety, and coming up with our own definitions of what ‘success’ looks like to us.

Further activities with the fire crew instructors involved trust and teamwork, such as guiding blindfolded team members using only voice commands (all while up against the engine noise and commotion of a simulated emergency scene), and a particularly hilarious game of human hungry hippos that was interrupted by a real fire crew call-out!

In the spirit of ‘challenge by choice’, all participants embarking on day one’s ladder climb stepped up and out of their comfort zones, whether that was 12 rungs up or three. On day three, however,

I watched every single one of them scale a 13-metre ladder to three storeys without a moment’s hesitation. Throughout the week I witnessed tremendous courage as the participants overcame significant fears to take on the challenges of wearing breathing apparatus in smoke-filled rooms and take a trip 30 metres up on the aerial lift platform. Needless to say that by the time of their passing out parade, in which they ably demonstrated their squad drills and put the skills they’d learnt into practice in a simulated emergency situation, a certain Dorset Mind volunteer was feeling more than a tad teary with pride!”

Heather, Dorset Mind Volunteer

This is an example of the work Dorset Mind does with young people across the county. Our specialist team provides bespoke whole school programmes for young people, parents and teachers. The ‘Dorset Mind Your Head’ initiative comprises comprehensive lessons, workshops and assemblies plus a range of targeted support for schools and youth groups that helps support young people who are in and out of education.

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