People like Tara are proving to be a lifeline for vulnerable locals

When Community Safety Officer, Tara Clarke visits Oxfordshire residents’ homes, she might be the first person they’ve seen in four-months.

Tara is one of five Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s community safety advisors based out of Kidlington. As a team, they have visited over 100 vulnerable people in their own homes since mid-March, when the lockdown commenced in the UK.

Tara and her colleagues offer a range of services – from fitting smoke alarms and giving general advice regarding fire safety, to managing more complex situations, such as assisting alcohol and drug users, and residents with mental health issues.

ALSO READ: Restrictions to be lifted for those shielding

Each of the community safety advisers has their own area of expertise, and Tara primarily advises and supports from a health and safety perspective.  She also regularly works alongside other professionals including social workers, trading standards, environmental health, and housing officers.  She says:

“The service is much more than fighting fires; I’m proof of that.  I used to work for County Council’s social and health care team on their helpdesk. One day, in 2018, I shadowed Fire and Rescue’s community safety officers. I knew it was the career for me; applied for a vacancy and never looked back.”

In many cases, Tara does not even see the residents she is sent to help.  Although she is fitted with a wide range of PPE, from respirator masks, ” the type firefighters use when wearing breathing apparatus is not necessary” right through to gowns, aprons, gloves and glasses, many of the residents stay in a different room whilst Tara completes her work.  She adds:

“In many cases, I hardly see the resident. They’ll stay in a separate room whilst I’m fixing their smoke alarm or removing anything that’s a fire or hygiene risk, such as piles of rubbish or rotting food.  But some people are desperate for company. I am the first face they’ll have seen for months.”

ALSO READ: Citizen’s Advice Oxfordshire in desperate need of funds

Tara cites one particular case when she recently visited a resident with dementia.  The woman had been ordering groceries regularly, but had been forgetting to place the orders in the fridge or freezer.  When Tara was called to assist, she says the home was in a terrible state; with bags of rotting meat and fruit.  She explains:

“We did OK. We found a way to communicate as safely as possible. I made sure she was comfortable in her armchair, then I hovered by the living room door, chatting at a safe distance.  I left that property feeling I’d made a real difference to someone’s life. Equally importantly, I’d brightened a lonely resident’s day, providing that missing human contact she’d yearned for.”

Ansaf Azhar, Director of Public Health for Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“Tara and her community safety colleagues are taking great care to abide by national guidelines that are keeping us as safe as possible. I urge everyone in Oxfordshire to continue to follow their example. Don’t relax and give COVID-19 the advantage. Together we can stop the spread.”

Anyone concerned about a vulnerable resident should phone 01865 895999 so that Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s safety team can investigate.

Or visit the website:

Contact Gi Oxford
Email us:
Follows us on Facebook for all the latest local stories, breaking news and to join the conversation