I’m currently doing some work in a local authority elsewhere in the country, hopefully helping them improve their (already good) community safety function. Inevitably you draw comparisons with your own experiences and the quality of what you provide. Of course, it’s impossible to do, because each partnership has different needs and priorities – what might be important to the residents of a London borough like Wandsworth might not be important to the residents of a rural district or an urban unitary council.

But it did remind me of my visit to see Wandsworth’s Safer Citizen scheme in action during April. Because it was in an election period so I couldn’t really write about it; now, however, it’s something I want to flag up because it’s something of which Wandsworth should be really proud.

The Safer Citizen scheme is an extension of the Junior Citizen scheme, developed to give children in the borough’s special schools their own Junior Citizen that is adapted to their particular needs, so, for example, children with hearing problems are taught different to children with mobility problems to ensure they are getting the benefits of fire safety training.

We’re lucky to have excellent partners helping us. As always the local police were there along with the fire brigade and Leonard Cheshire (who host the scheme). On the day I visited the London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, and the Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire, Eric Prescott, were also there to see the scheme in action.

Both left incredibly enthused by what they saw, with Ron Dobson particularly keen for the knowledge and experience of what Wandsworth are doing to be spread to other parts of London. It is a scheme that ensures everyone benefits from our services by recognising that equality is not about equal treatment, but ensuring everyone has the opportunity to benefit equally; a distinction that is all too often lost.

I hadn't wet myself, honest. It was the sponges.

With all the negativity around politics at the moment I can easily forgive people who think we’re all as bad as each other and in it for ourselves. And with that attitude, it’s easy to start wondering why on earth I still persist in my politician-lite role as a councillor – unlike Stephen Byers it has never given me the opportunity to earn £5,000 a day and never will. But if I was wavering then last Saturday was a superb illustration of why it’s worth doing what I do.

The council and partners hosting a Junior Citizen ‘fun-day’ for young carers at Battersea Fire Station on Este Road. I’ve written about Junior Citizen before, and it is incredibly well-developed in Wandsworth. We’ve been running Safer Citizen for a few years and this, we believe, is the first scheme aimed at young carers.

There are 170 young carers registered in Wandsworth, that is, 170 people under the age of 18 who have some responsibility for caring for a family member. There are probably a few thousand more who aren’t registered. And it’s quite humbling for the vast majority of us who never have to think about a caring responsibility until well into adulthood to think of those children who are taking on responsibility far beyond their years.

Me, by one of the young carers!

The day on Saturday was for carers aged 5-10 (and yes, there are five year olds taking on that sort of role) and along with the usual Junior Citizen safety scenarios, teaching the children how to keep themselves and their homes safe, there was an element of fun. So the children did some cooking, saw a simulated fire rescue from the tower and got to throw wet sponges and try and soak some of the volunteer firefighters (and one unfortunate councillor, who at least got to dress as a firefighter and got a picture of me out of the deal).

And it the day the children were given wasn’t enough, the work of all the people involved topped it. Although it was council funded (and supported by some incredibly dedicated and able officers) it was supported by the Fire Brigade, who assisted with premises and huge numbers of firefighters and senior officers, the Metropolitan Police, who sent along plenty of SNT officers (and police cadets) so the children could meet their local team, the Ambulance Service and plenty of volunteers.

And that’s the point of councils, and politics, the opportunity to make a real difference.

I’ve become a regular visitor to the Wandsworth Junior Citizen scheme over the years, and never fail to be impressed.

The scheme runs twice a year for year five children and exposes them to controlled risk, teaching them about potential danger and how they can be safe in a variety of situations. Yesterday I was observing (along with a representative from the Department of Children who was keen to see what we do) children from two Putney Schools – Brandlehow and Our Lady Queen of Heaven – being put through their paces by the council staff, police, fire service, paramedics and volunteers.

One of the amazing things is how much potentially life saving information is absorbed when the day is combined with the work done in schools – during the simulated fire (complete with smoke) Brandlehow pupils knew exactly what to do before the firefighters even told them!

It one of those schemes of which I am very proud, since it makes a real difference and I have no doubt has probably saved a few lives in the 20 years it has been running.

As usual, my end of week post detailing a few bits and pieces I want to highlight or didn’t post about during the week.

Council surgery
I’ve been fascinated by the response to my post on council surgeries not least because I’ve still to have any feedback suggesting the current surgery system works. Given the medium I used to tackle the issue (a blog) it’s not surprising most people would agree surgeries are an anachronism – but I still didn’t expect total agreement.

Eccles Road meeting
The issues around Eccles Road rumble on (see here, here, here and here). I had a small meeting with some of the residents there on Tuesday. I didn’t give it a substantial post, since it was a fairly low key meeting and a lot of the issues remain unresolved.

The meeting covered a number of issues that had already been raised, but also the prospect of permanent road closure. This is an incredibly complex issue, since no road can be considered in isolation – any road closure will impact on other roads and in the case of Eccles Road we would have to consult with Transport for London.

However, the biggest factor will be the results of a traffic survey the council conducted in the road. We are still awaiting the analysis from our contractors which, when done, will give an indication whether traffic volumes and speed are at a level which will justify closure or other traffic measures.

Junior Citizen
I visited the council’s Junior Citizen scheme this week. The scheme exposes children to a series of safety scenarios, hopefully meaning that if they face those scenarios in real life they will be able to deal with the successfully. I’d love to be able to have taken some photos to show how good the scheme is – but it is difficult to do it any justice when you can’t get any children in the photo!

The scheme received accreditation from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents last year (in it’s 20th anniversary year) and was visited by officials from the Department of Children, Schools and Families while I was there who seemed impressed at what we are doing.

Lavender Hill
Because I’m a sucker for a photo I popped along to Lavender Hill to see some of their new planters. The idea came from traders, supported by the council’s Town Centre Improvement Scheme, to use planters to add colour and advertise their shops (rather than using standard A-boards). The effect when they are all out really is quite something.

The Regeneration and Community Safety OSC meeting on Monday spent a lot of time discussing the proposed priorities for the Partnership Strategy Group for the forthcoming year. And it was quite right to do this, these are going to be the priorities that the police and other partners have in their work for the next year.  I’ll be putting some stuff on this site about them in due course.

However, it did mean that other items on the agenda perhaps didn’t get the attention they deserved, partly because of the time, and partly because council meetings often focus on where there is disagreement between partners – most of these items were good news.

In an attempt to redress that I’m just going to briefly outline some of them (and link to the associated council report).

Junior and Safer Citizen Schemes
Council report
Junior Citizen schemes are commonplace now and few council’s don’t run a scheme of some type.  However Wandsworth was one of the first, and this year it celebrated its 20th year.

The  scheme involves exposing 10 year olds (there are 2,000 places a year) to a variety of scenarios to teach them about safety.  The scenarios are delivered by a range of partners and not just the council, so children meet fire fighters, police and ambulance staff as well as council officers.

It has recently been accredited by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for its quality and in November the Safer Citizen scheme (which focuses on young disabled people) won a Safer Community Award from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Neighbourhood Watch Strategy
Council report
It isn’t a very sexy title, but I think this is a very exciting project. Wandsworth has long been a strong supporter of Neighbourhood Watch (NW), the council is something of a rarity since in most places NW is run by the police rather than the council.  Here, it has meant a very strong NW community has developed and can get support from a dedicated group of council officers.

However, we did perhaps concentrate on quantity rather than quality.  And this makes sure this isn’t the case in the future.  For a start it sets out what everyone can expect from a NW scheme, so co-ordinators know what they have to do, but also what support they can expect from the council and their local Safer Neighbourhood Team.  It will also develop some of the innovative schemes like the training we offer to co-ordinators on flooding.  It very much turns NW into NW+ and strengthens and consolidates NW as part of the borough’s crime fighting partnership.

‘Not in my Neighbourhood’ Week
Council report
‘Not in my Neighbourhood’ Week is a Home Office scheme the council has participated in since its creation in 2007.  Wandsworth has been one of the most enthusiastic participants, organising a series of events for the week which promote and assist in crime prevention.  There were too many events to list here, but they ranged from a barbecue for students (to get across specific messages about student safety) to tea parties for the elderly (to teach them how to avoid suffering distraction burglarly) and a whole load of street stalls that you probably passed in one of the town centres.

None of it would have been possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of the council’s Community Safety Division who deserve congratulating for the work they do all year round.

If you have any concerns it might be worth taking a look at the council’s Community Safety website.