My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, which has also been made by a number of colleagues, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda. The emergency services face enough difficulties and threats to their wellbeing because of the nature of the job they do, and they are therefore entitled to whatever additional protection we can give them. I fully agree with my hon. Friend Fiona Onasanya on that point.
I want to conclude on a more positive note by making a comment on prevention rather than on dealing with perpetrators after an assault. Ms Helen Newton from the London fire brigade has supplied me with a note about one of its successful initiatives, called LIFE:
“The Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) course is a week-long youth intervention programme. It is a programme targeted at young people aged 14-17 who: are at risk of or involved in anti-social behaviour, gangs or other criminal activity;
have poor attendance at their educational provision or have been excluded;
display challenging behaviour;
or are NEET (not in education, employment or training). Starting in Tower Hamlets in 2002”— it was actually in Shadwell, in my constituency—
“the LIFE project was an innovative approach to engaging with the local community in response to repeated call-out to an estate for youth-related deliberate fire setting and the firefighters being attacked during their response. Running the LIFE courses with firefighters and the local young people helped break down the barriers, develop a respect for the emergency services and educate them about the valuable job they do for their community. Over the course of a week, the young people work alongside the London Fire Brigade to develop skills they can transfer to improve their relationships at home and support their education and future careers. It is a disciplined programme, packed with challenging practical activities which include climbing ladders, working with the breathing apparatus, hoses and casualty rescue techniques. These are interspersed with classroom sessions which teach the young people about social responsibility by learning how their behaviours impact their community, families and themselves. Working alongside the Brigade’s firefighters, they are role modelled positive behaviours and learn to respect uniformed authority figures.
Young people on LIFE may have encountered negative experiences with authority figures such as the police and their teachers, and they view the Fire Brigade in the same light. A positive and supportive rapport is developed with each young person, who then in return develops a respect for the officer they work with and the job they do for the community. Every young person has their progress evaluated by an operational trainer, enabling them to improve their key skills and build a bond of trust. These evaluations form part of a detailed portfolio containing certificates earned through the week, demonstrating a commitment to developing skills such as punctuality, conduct, politeness and effort. The portfolio is presented at a passing-out ceremony at which candidates demonstrate the skills that they have learnt during the week. They are given an individual appraisal by their trainer, and the opportunity to speak about their experiences on the course. Referral agencies, parents and partners attend the pass-out to be presented with their AQA accreditation and portfolio of achievement.”
I have attended many of these pass-out parades. They are hugely impressive events for the trainers, the youngsters and their families, as well as those who sponsor the courses: the police, the City of London, Tower Hamlets pupil referral and others.
I naturally support the Bill, as everyone who has spoken this morning does. I welcome the Government’s support, which is absolutely key for any private Member’s Bill to get on to the statute book. I also hope that the Government will continue to resource initiatives to prevent young people in particular from attacking our emergency service workers.
Finally, I again congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda and for Halifax. I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda for choosing this subject for his Bill. Emergency workers across the country have reason to be grateful to him and his colleagues.