We are here to help you!
The Fire Fighters Charity is here not only for every one of the UK’s serving fire fighters, but also all retired fire fighters, fire service personnel and their dependants. Our three state-of-the-art rehabilitation and recuperation centres help fire fighters and their families get back on their feet after injury, trauma and problems in their lives.
Fire fighters, their families and anyone else in the fire community can call the trained advisers on our helpline for support with any issues, from claiming benefits to improving family relationships. Our website and factsheets also give extensive advice on common problems members of the fire community face. Our staff can visit members of the community at home if a more in-depth approach is needed to solve their problem.
Our support really does change fire fighters’ lives. It makes them fitter, healthier, happier – and it can mean the difference between staying in the brigade and serving the public, and having to leave.
Over the years, we have helped thousands of people from the fire community by providing world-class treatment and support services. We are able to do so because we understand the pressures and demands of your profession – physically, emotionally and mentally. So we’re here to offer information and support whenever you need us.
Whether your problems stem from physical injury, illness or emotional upset, there are a number of ways in which we can help you. We offer a range of support including advice and signposting or residential rehabilitation, mental and emotional wellbeing and recuperation programmes. Our staff can also visit you at home if solving your problem needs a more in depth approach and we may be able to provide specialist equipment or bespoke assistance if needed.
Our confidential, impartial and friendly advisors are available to assist you during your time of need by providing information on a wide range of issues including financial hardship, welfare benefits, employment issues, housing, bereavement, disability issues and adaptations, just to name a few. They are also able to refer you on to our regional beneficiary support team or send you out an application pack for rehabilitation or recuperation at one of our three centres in Devon, Cumbria or West Sussex.
We supported 4,600 serving fire fighters, retired fire fighters, support staff and their family members in 2013/2014
Our bespoke 4, 7 or 10 day rehabilitation programmes are offered to beneficiaries that may, depending on individual needs, encompass the following areas:
- Exercise therapy
- Health promotion
- Nursing care
- Social care
- Mental health and emotional wellbeing
We offer our rehabilitation, recuperation and support services to everyone who is eligible regardless of whether or not they support the Charity. However, with no government funding we are completely reliant on the generosity and enthusiasm of our supporters – in time, money and energy.
You can help us by signing up for a monthly donation from your payroll or by direct debit, or joining The Fire Fighters Lottery and being in with a chance of winning a monthly jackpot of up to £25,000! Or alternatively, why not join a fundraising challenge such as trekking the incredible African wilderness, joining in with the National Car Wash or organising your own event. The choices are endless.
We’re very proud of the huge difference we’ve made to the lives of fire fighters, retired fire fighters, fire service support staff and fire community families. But we are still ambitious. Our services are even more in demand – and we want to be there for everyone who needs us.
We are therefore seeking to better understand our beneficiary base and the ever-changing environment in which we deliver our services. In this way the Charity will keep its services up to date, be clear about what it does, why we do it, what it costs and what difference we can make to beneficiaries. This will allow us to ensure that our service provision for you is appropriate and responsive to the ever-changing world you are living and working within.
To access our services and speak to one of our confidential and friendly advisors please call our Freephone Helpline on 0800 389 8820
We now offer our flexible rehabilitation programmes over seven days of the week at all of our rehabilitation centres – this is alongside the existing services for recuperation and rental breaks. Delivering rehabilitation over seven days means that we are now able to offer programmes of different lengths – 4, 7, 10 days which means that access to our services is much quicker. For some problems a shorter length is as effective as our established 10-day programme, and can be followed up at a later date with another short ‘top up’.
Being healthy is not just about physical fitness and for rehabilitation to be most successful, programmes need to support both physical and mental health recovery. There are always both sides to the journey when recovering from illness and injury and the Charity understands that positive rehabilitation and re-ablement involves focusing on both the body and the mind.
We recognise that physical injury can have a significant impact on an individual’s emotional wellbeing and that psychological stress can impact physical health. By taking a holistic approach and working in partnership with the beneficiary it is our aim to enhance their progress, improve performance and help them achieve realistic goals.
We also offer health education sessions within the timetable which currently include:
- Change – how changes in our life can affect us
- Coping with stress and anxiety – understanding the stress response and how to improve resilience
- Sleep – how to improve your sleep
- Expectations – how to get the most out of your stay
- Pain – what is pain and how to manage it
For further information, eligibility criteria and to see how you can support the Charity please visit our website at www.firefighterscharity.org.uk
Beneficiaries may also engage in individual psychological therapy sessions which provide an opportunity to discuss personal issues with a qualified professional.
The health and wellbeing services provided by the Charity are co-ordinated but we are further seeking to ensure that they are truly integrated and that we provide a seamless service for our beneficiaries from the time they make contact with us.
We’re also looking at how to make recuperation a more positive experience, drawing on the fact that most of those who attend for recuperation have some wider health issues we are looking for recuperation to be more active and supportive in achieving positive change and healthier lifestyles.
We offer flexible programmes, easy access, whole person support and follow up. Even if you cannot attend a Centre, we offer practical and emotional support, advice, equipment if appropriate and signposting to other services.
We have a great foundation of excellent services to build on and we will ensure that our services are appropriately responsive to change and that your Charity is positioned to take advantage of opportunities that change may bring to ensure we meet your needs well into the future.
Dave and Louise’s story
“The Charity’s rehabilitation programme is just amazing – everything from the facilities to the setting, the staff to the catering, is faultless. I feel so lucky to have been able to go to the centre. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help I received from The Fire Fighters Charity…”
Dave is a fire fighter with Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service. He suffered a horrific accident resulting in multiple injuries and yet despite all the odds, he made a miraculous recovery and believes that if it wasn’t for The Fire Fighters Charity he wouldn’t be where he is today.
As a fire fighter it’s important to be fit and healthy so Dave was very active doing numerous sports including skiing. It was when he was away skiing, walking along an icy path that Dave slipped and fell 4m head first onto concrete. He was knocked out instantly and in a very bad way. A quick thinking friend, who had paramedic training, raised the alarm, cleared his airway and put him the recovery position.
Dave was put on oxygen straight away and air lifted to the local Swiss hospital, where the extent of his injuries were realised. Dave had severe head injuries with bleeding on the brain, 12 broken bones with a total of 22 breaks, a fractured jaw and fractured collarbone. He was in a coma, Glasgow scale 3 – the closest type of coma to death – and no one thought he would survive. His wife Louise rushed to be by his side where she witnessed his lung collapsing four times during the first few days and was told that it was probably time to say goodbye on more than one occasion.
Despite the extent of his injuries and seriousness of his condition, after just eight days in intensive care Dave was out of immediate danger. Although he’d pulled through, his wife Louise was told that he was likely to be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. “It was truly heart-breaking to see Dave like that,” she explains. “He’d been so fit and healthy the last time I’d seen him but he couldn’t do anything for himself. I was devastated but I also knew what a determined person he was and knew he would do everything he could to improve.”
And slowly, he did improve. After two weeks in hospital, with support from the nurses and physiotherapists, Dave was able to take a few steps. Louise found this small progression very emotional as she knew it meant Dave had the determination to get back to his usual self. And she was proved right when another week on Dave was able to return to the UK, telling the doctors that he would prove them wrong as he would be a fire fighter again.
Dave was lucky to be getting home as there had been problems with allowing him to fly which had been added pressure for Louise. It was during this time that the Charity got in touch with Louise to offer advice and support. “The Fire Fighters Charity rang me every day that Dave was in hospital to see how he was doing and help me make arrangements to get him home. It was fantastic to have someone impartial that I could talk to as I felt so isolated in a strange country and I didn’t want to worry our family and friends further with my concerns.”
When Dave got home his ordeal was far from over as he still had a long way to go. “I was so frustrated with my body as it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to so I was keen to get to the Charity’s rehabilitation centre at Harcombe House to see if they could help me. I had to wait for the all clear from the neurologist before I could go on the therapy programme and although I was looking forward to my stay, I was nervous as I kept thinking ‘what if they can’t do anything for me and I’m stuck like this for ever?’.”
Despite his worries during his first week at the centre, just four months after his accident, Dave’s condition improved leaps and bounds. He found the whole experience of being at the centre beneficial. “I couldn’t believe how I was when I left the centre compared to how I was when I arrived – I was like a different person! The whole programme was beneficial for me. The rehabilitation was fantastic and my specific exercise programme really increased my movement but it was all the other things you wouldn’t even consider that helped me the most. Just having a daily structure, having to listen to others and process information, talking and interacting with other people, feeding and caring for myself – all these elements of the programme helped get my brain going again, improving my thought processing and my speech – it was fantastic.”
Following his stay at Harcombe House, Dave defied all the odds by returning to work on light duties just five months after his accident. He returned to Harcombe House on two other occasions for further rehabilitation and on one occasion Louise joined him for a weeks’ recuperation. Dave’s accident had been traumatic and stressful for Louise who had to take six months off work to care for Dave, and also had the added trauma of both her Grandmother and, more recently, her mother dying. “I’m so grateful for what the Charity did for both Dave and I. They’ve bought my husband back, and were there for me when I needed support and someone to listen.”
Dave went back to work at the station fully operational just eight months after his accident, and then achieved an incredible accomplishment of completing the Iron Man Challenge (2.4mile swim, 11mile bike ride and 26mile run) for The Fire Fighters Charity as his way of saying thank you.
For more information, go to www.firefighterscharity.org.uk