A 26-year-old is among the 16 Community Safety Officers (CSO) at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service who lends an ear to vulnerable and elderly people across the county on a daily basis.
People starts to build some trust in us and feel like they can open up to us.
As part of Time to Talk day today (6 February) and encouraging people to talk about their mental health, Rio Case, a CSO based in Sandyford, visits some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in Staffordshire as part of her role – particularly safe and well visits.
The visits sees CSOs visit residents’ homes, fitting smoke alarms, offering fire safety advice and checking the properties for potential hazards. During these visits, the CSOs also discuss the residents’ general health and wellbeing and make sure they have sufficient heating and benefits and contact appropriate agencies with any other concerns.
Rio, who started as an IT apprentice in 2016 but became a CSO after an life-long interest in working with the community and vulnerable people, works with a range of partners and agencies including social care, mental health and housing in a bid to safeguard the vulnerable and prevent fires in homes.
She said: “Every day is so different. I’m outgoing and I knew IT wasn’t for me. I love helping people, I’m really personable and I enjoy it.
“We sit in on a range of different meetings such as Smoke Free Stoke-on-Trent, a rough sleepers board and even attend a lot of events such as community meals with representatives from Staffordshire Police and other partners. The main aim of our role is being there for those in need.
“We receive referrals from both firefighters and partners who have raised concerns about people who may be vulnerable, need a little help or are concerned about how someone is living.”
Across the county, there is approximately 85 open cases that CSOs are working on and assisting with.
Rio added: “A lot of the people we see sadly do have mental health issues so entering a home, building up trust and getting them to open up is important.
“Hoarding is a regular issue that has mental health elements, so we work with partners to try and offer support to the individuals and reduce the risk of fire.
“Some of the elderly people we visit during safe and well visits haven’t seen anyone for days. I’ve got a lady at the moment that won’t leave the house.
“These sort of people do start to build some trust in us and feel like they can speak to us, open up and air any concerns they have which is fantastic.
“Knowing you’ve done something to help someone vulnerable or someone struggling with their mental health goes a long way.
“Anyone struggling shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, there’s so much out there that a lot of people don’t even know about. Whether you’re a people person or like to keep yourself to yourself, there’s always something out there.