It’s been another transformational year for our services, with several new programmes launched – both online and face-to-face – a huge milestone achieved with our digital consultations, a children’s book released specifically for our fire community and so much more.

Here, we’ve rounded up just a few of the highlights from 2022 – none of which would have been possible without your support along the way…

10K digital consultations and counting

We’ve been delivering much needed digital support, through online consultations, to more members of our fire family across the UK since lockdown in April 2020. Earlier this autumn, however, we marked a major milestone by logging on to deliver our 10,000th virtual consultation.

Made possible thanks to the generous donations of our supporters, which funded the technology and expertise needed to facilitate virtual physical and mental health support, we stepped up to meet the need during the pandemic and have since expanded this successful service to reach a growing number of beneficiaries across the fire services community.

Our digital sessions cover a range of services, from online physiotherapy and counselling through to initial assessments and follow-ups.

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Launch of children’s book for fire families

In May this year, we were delighted to announce the publication of The Fire Fighters Charity edition of The Wolf Was Not Sleeping, a charming, illustrated children’s book that we began giving away as an exclusive gift for members of the UK fire family.

Designed to help you share the pride you feel in your job and to help you talk about it with the young people in your life, the book by children’s author Avril McDonald also features a special foreword from HRH The Duke of Cambridge. And there’s still copies available, including Welsh editions!

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Interactive resources and courses for MyFFC users

We now have a number of online health and wellbeing courses available, exclusively for members of the UK fire services community, in our Wellbeing Hub in MyFFC. These five and six-week courses can be taken at your own pace and cover a range of topics in-depth.

From a course on gambling addiction, to another on stress at work and ones on either social or general anxiety, there are a number of topics that could prove beneficial for you.

There are also five-minute Bitesize sessions and 10-15 minute Find Out More sessions on everything from stress and anxiety to low mood, menopause and debt management.

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Reset Programme helps more beneficiaries

We helped more beneficiaries with their mental wellbeing on our Reset Programme at Harcombe House this year.

The 5-day residential stay offers you the opportunity to develop and improve your resilience and overall mental fitness, with a programme of workshops and activities tailored to your individual needs.

We also offered Control Room staff a specific Reset Programme in September, offering the group the chance to escape the pressures of day-to-day life, with the space and time to focus on improving their overall wellbeing.

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Further development of our rest and recharge breaks

We developed our services to ensure we can offer anyone who may need some time out from the challenges of day-to-day life – no matter their age or stage in life – a break away and a chance to rest and recharge.

These stays provide you with the space and opportunity to unwind, relax and reflect on your wellbeing and yourself.

And from Autumn, we began offering a range of different activities designed to support your wellbeing. These activities, offered at Harcombe House, are optional as we recognise that for some, a period of complete rest is what’s needed.

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Health awareness programmes

We delivered two health awareness programmes this year, firstly around joints and musculoskeletal health, and later in the year one on women’s health.

You can catch up on all of the content here:

Joints and MSK Health

Women’s Health

Cost of Living resources

The cost of living has been headline news for months now, with energy and food costs seemingly rising on a weekly basis. In response to that, we are providing a space for you to access information, resources and the right support for you and your family.

We will be sharing a number of resources including advice articles, graphics, videos, webinars, online courses and real-life stories, as well as expert input from our partners at PayPlan, to ensure you’re well informed about the support that’s available to you.

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Hundreds supported on our Hope Programmes

We have rolled out a series of Hope Programmes this year, in partnership with Hope for the Community, helping participants build resilience in their day-to-day lives.

Following their success, we have two more in the New Year with spaces still available.

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Covid Recovery Programme supports more beneficiaries

Our Covid Recovery Programme continued to support more beneficiaries living with long-term symptoms of Covid-19.

And, to add to the success of our ongoing face-to-face programmes, we also held several digitally, to ensure everyone that needed support could access it easily.

This online programme supported beneficiaries from home, while offering them the opportunity to chat with and get to know others who are going through similar experiences – and it proved a great success, with more being rolled out in 2023.

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Expansion of our family services

Throughout this year, we’ve expanded our family services with more Child and Family Weeks held at our centres. And, more recently, we opened Furze Cottage at Harcombe House – a new family area for adults and children of all ages, offering anyone staying on a break to rest and recharge a welcoming space to connect with others.

You can read about that here.

Some of you may have seen our Family Hub already, but for those that haven’t, we have a dedicated space on our website for spouses, partners and dependants, where you can find our latest services, news and resources for you, as well as activities for all ages. You can find it here.

We’re now looking to offer more of our popular Child and Family Weeks in 2023, as well as some specialised family programmes. You can keep up with all our latest family news here:

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Mental health boosting benches unveiled

We unveiled specially planted trees, plaques and innovative soundscape benches at our three residential centres to mark the Platinum Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II, our late Patron, in June – months before her sad passing.

The Echo Benches, which can be found at each of our three centres, play a carefully curated and structured soundscape for those seated on them. This forms a guided breathing exercise to help calm the mind.

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Wellness coaching delivered to FRSs

Our Wellness and Behaviour Change coaches have been busy delivering sessions to individual fire and rescue services throughout this year, depending on their specific needs. In 2022, we have delivered workshops on everything from menopause to MSK to over 1,000 beneficiaries.

Now, as we look ahead to 2023, they’ll also be delivering a series of webinars in January and February, covering a range of topics to promote your wellbeing.

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We proudly supported the 2022 Mental Health Symposium

Our Chief Executive, Dr Jill Tolfrey, attended this year’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium and Emergency Responders’ Senior Leaders Board meeting in November.

The symposium was a follow-up to last year’s, held by The Royal Foundation, which was also attended by His Royal Highness Prince William. This ‘one year on’ event was delivered by a collaboration of emergency service and first responder organisations, together with charities like us which support them. It was a unique opportunity to hear from practitioners, senior leaders, frontline staff and subject matter experts from a wide range of 999 services and organisations from across the UK.

Our Honorary Research Lead, Professor Rowena Hill, also spoke at the event to share an insight into a research project she’s been working on over the last 10 months, which focuses on the specific needs of operational, control, professional services and non-operational fire staff. Details of this will be shared in 2023.

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Further support for our retired community

We saw the return of face-to-face Living Well Groups this year, which now run alongside our virtual ones following their success throughout the pandemic.

Meanwhile, we launched our telephone befriending service – Fire Friends – earlier this year, which offers members of our retired community the chance to engage with a friendly volunteer over the telephone. Read more about that here.

And, to expand our support for retirees, we also began hosting virtual Tai Chi sessions, as well as hosting free digital support sessions for anyone finding it difficult to navigate today’s increasingly digital world.

4-day trauma programme

In October we ran a 4-day trauma programme at Harcombe House, our centre in Devon – which included a day of surf therapy at the beach in Bude, Cornwall – in partnership with Surfwell.

This followed the success of a pilot 3-day programme earlier in the year.

A huge thank you to you, our wonderful supporters, we couldn’t have achieved all of these milestones without you – here’s to many more in 2023!

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