FIREFIGHTERS are being taught how to guide lonely and isolated residents to support services in a bid to stop vulnerable people hitting crisis point.
For the past few months, crews from across the Portsmouth area have been linking with Portsmouth City Council to learn the new skills.
The scheme is part of the authority’s Community Connectors project which looks to tackle loneliness across the city.
Julie Roberts is a community development officer at Portsmouth City Council.
She has been behind the training initiative which is being rolled out to all the city’s firefighters.
She said: ‘This is helping to us to catch people before they reach crisis point.
‘This is a problem that is really important to us and one we want to deal with.’
The council has been working to introduce the new training with the fire service since the start of the year.
Since beginning, most of the city’s fire watches have been trained, with only a handful left.
Among those to have received the enhanced training is Taff Rogers, watch manager at Southsea fire station.
He said: ‘We’re not just for fighting fires, we’re there to make every life safer.
‘We have done this sort of job for a long time.
‘Through our role we come into contact with lots of people in Portsmouth. This is just making them all more aware of the greater issues that we can help with.
‘We don’t just fight fires any more, there’s so much more we now do as a service.’
The training is being given to crews in Cosham and Southsea with officers from the council travelling directly to their stations.
It’s expected that all the new sessions will be completed by May.
Mrs Roberts added: ‘We bring the training to the firefighters. ‘There’s a risk that they might get called out because we go to them while they’re on duty.
‘The firefighters have already had a lot of training around safeguarding. But this is something totally different.’
The project comes as The News highlighted the plight faced by hundreds of lonely pensioners in the city.
As previously reported, Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond unveiled ambitious plans to create a new elderly persons’ hub in the city.
The idea was backed by the Portsmouth wing of Age UK.
For more details on the support available across the city, or for information on the Community Connectors, see portsmouth.gov.uk