STRETCHED public services have been saved ‘millions’ thanks to a scheme led by Barnsley’s firefighters to prevent vulnerable people from having accidents in their homes, according to a report.

Produced by a team of social return on investment experts, the report looked at different areas of work carried out by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue as part of its ‘Safe and Well Checks’ initiative.

Although it’s led by fire crews, partnering agencies including Barnsley Council, Age UK, Berneslai Homes, Barnsley CCG, South Yorkshire Housing Association and Dementia Action Alliance have all played a role.

Projected savings have been based on the economic cost to society of house fires and subsequent injuries - which are reduced as a result of safety visits - in comparison to the cost of the visits themselves.

The initiative saved £25 for every pound spen and is estimated to have saved society around £30m in total.

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Area manager Steve Helps said: “Our community safety staff work tirelessly all year round and clearly we’re really pleased with the results of this study.

“We’ve been able to see the success of our work through incident reductions but it’s really good for us to see what financial benefits have been brought about for local people.

“The reality is that the incidents we attend don’t just affect us. An arson attack, for example, affects our communities, our colleagues at the police, the court services and of course the owner of the property which has been damaged, be it on public land, such as in a park, or on private land.

“Then you take a house fire where someone’s been injured. Not only does it affect us but the ambulance service and local hospitals will be involved, too, as they will often spend thousands of pounds providing immediate care and long-term rehabilitation for those affected.

“There’s then the cost of repairing damage caused to the property and the effects on the occupants who may have to have time off work.

“By reducing incidents through the work the joint department has done we’ve not only been able to make Barnsley safer, but we’ve been able to save the public purse a lot of money, and we’re really proud of that.”

Having been initially piloted on a six-month term around Cudworth Fire Station’s patch - which includes Cudworth, North East, Monk Bretton, Royston and Stairfoot wards - the scheme was rolled out across Barnsley due to its success.

“We believe we can use the contact we have with some of the most vulnerable people in society to achieve far more than simply reducing fires,” Steve added.

“We know that there are huge links between the people who need the help of the health services and those who are at risk of fire, so strengthening our knowledge and referral mechanisms through collaborative working such as this must surely benefit our public safety objectives, as well as those of partner agencies.”