Meet the Partner- Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS)
Gary Oakford is Area Manager, Prevention Directorate with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS). As one of the VRP’s chief stakeholders, MFRS also has a place in the steering group and here, Gary talks about the reasons why MFRS is committed to reducing serious violence as part of the VRP.
My name is Gary Oakford and I’m an Area Manager with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) where the focus of my work lies with the ‘prevention’ of fire in homes, business, or in public spaces – whether that’s intentionally caused fire, or unintentional. My objectives sit well with the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership’s ambitions to reduce serious violence.
Following government consultation, new legislation will arrive in 2022 for a new Serious Violence Duty. This will require all Fire & Rescue Services to work together collectively with partners to reduce violence in our communities. Rather than wait for that legislation to launch, I’m pleased to say that MFRS has made a commitment to do this since 2019 when two members of our service were seconded to the MVRP to help set it up operationally. Through our seat at the steering group, we began to contribute to the way in which the VRP began to develop strategically, too.
As a Junior Officer in our Youth Engagement team – a little time back now – I became well aware of the power of positive role models that the Fire and Rescue Service could have on children and young people in our communities, and particularly for those children who face more challenges than others. Our own current incumbents at the Youth Engagement team are still delivering positive outcomes every week. Our Princes Trust and Beacon programmes, for instance, are well established and our new mental wellbeing project, Healing Together, is one that, we feel, will have impact as we transition back to a ‘new normal with Covid’.
Two of our guys are doing tremendous work at the MVRP as well. In the Pathways strand, for example, Pete Owens has helped to spearhead employability assets such as the Destinations Directory and lead on partnership work with DWP for example. Then, Mike Buratti is working on arson prevention, as he does with MFRS. Interventions that focus on arson with those young people considered to be at-risk of becoming involved in fire-setting (or already are) will be introduced in coming months, so there’s much to look forward to. The partnership has been supported by Group Manager, Ben Ryder, who is now moving onto (internal) pastures new, so I would also like to thank him for his contribution.
Ultimately, working with MVRP – alongside many other good organisations across Merseyside – is about breaking down the barriers of silo working, identifying how we can work better together to reduce serious violence and delivering on new roadmaps to make this county of ours a much happier, safer and healthier place for everyone to live.