Why are people from some ethnic minority communities on Merseyside less likely to receive a Home Fire Safety Check from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service?
By John Brace (Editor)
First publication date: 29th August 2020, 21:29 (BST).
Updated: 30th August 2020, 11:01 (BST) to correct minor grammatical and typographical errors.
Updated: 31st August 2020, 11:43 (BST) to make figures more specific and correct some rounding errors.
Updated: 2nd September 2020, 15:39 (BST) to add link to information about Home Fire Safety Checks on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s website.
Next Tuesday (1st September 2020) Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Community Safety and Protection Committee will have a public meeting and one of the items on the agenda is the Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Annual Report for 2019-20 (the whole agenda including an item about Heswall Fire Station can be read on their website).
As race is an academic interest of mine this is the area this piece will focus on, but out of openness and transparency I will declare what my ethnic origin is (as it’s relevant to this article). I am from a mixed British/Irish background.
First, I don’t fully understand why the definition or interpretation of the BAME category by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (which stands for Black and Minority Ethnic) appears to regard Irish as not covered by the ME part of BAME (it appears Irish and British are put together as one ethnic group – therefore not regarding as an ethnic minority those who are Irish or of a mixed Irish/British ethnic background). Page 28 of the report states that 0.97% of the Merseyside population is Irish. Clearly this means on Merseyside the Irish ethnic group (which is recorded as an individual group) is not 50% or more and is therefore an ethnic minority.
The only reason I can fathom for this appears to be that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority is copying the house style of the Office of National Statistics who according to this page who have a different interpretation of what BAME means to myself.
My interpretation of BAME is that it means one ethnic group (Black) and also all other ethnic minorities (of whatever colour). Whereas the Office of National Statistics appear to regard someone as being incapable of being in an ethnic minority in the UK if that person is also in the White ethnic grouping.
However to give an example from the Irish ethnic minority group, 0.97% of the population on Merseyside is Irish, but received only 0.303% of the Home Fire Safety Checks to those who are Irish would appear to be an issue.
The ethnic minority of 8.4% of those who had Home Fire Safety Checks was however unknown. So this is 0.303% of a total of 91.6% therefore really 3.31% – which is slightly higher. There’s a similarly low proportion of people from the Asian – Chinese community receiving Home Fire Safety Checks (0.274% or adjusted to 0.299%) compared to 0.84% of the population.
So therefore the question becomes why are those two ethnic groupings less likely to have Home Fire Safety Checks in Merseyside? A partial answer may be stated in the report where it states the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service “regularly receive referrals from local partners such as social services, housing providers, the NHS and carers regarding vulnerable members of the public.”
There are issues why for example why those in my ethnic group (Irish) are reluctant to engage with professionals. I’ll give this one example of a nurse doing my PIP assessment in August 2019. This is a quote from a transcript of the assessment and is a conversation between the nurse and my wife Leonora Brace (the hearing bundle that contains this document at pages 153-154 was referred to at an open First-tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber) hearing in February 2020, so I regard it as being in the public domain. I’ve referred to the nurse below as N (rather than what is used on the transcript). LB refers to Leonora Brace (who is reading out my answers) as on the day of the PIP assessment my health meant I was unable to talk. “You” below refers to myself rather than Leonora.
123 N: And you went to university? What university was that?
124 LB: University of Liverpool.
125 N: And what was it you studied there?
126 LB: Irish Studies. He wanted to find out more about his family.
127 N: Have you got Irish family? My husband’s family is Irish. He’s got, he’s got a grandad who’s an effing wanker (laughs).
My point is that those (at least from my ethnic minority and I know anecdotally from others) have encountered this type of attitude and hostility in the past, which has the impact on people who have experienced it, reluctant to have engagement with the very types of groups (social services, housing providers, the NHS and carers) that make referrals to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service for Home Fire Safety Checks.
In my view, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service should to avoid any perception of bias on ethnic minority grounds counter this by engaging directly with at least these two specific communities on Merseyside (Irish and Chinese) that are underrepresented to increase awareness of how people from these communities can self refer for a Home Fire Safety Check.
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