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News Report Page 8 of 19
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MFRS urges people to:- "think twice" before setting deliberate fires and attacking firefighters

MERSEYSIDE Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) is calling on people to:- "think twice" before putting their community at risk over the Bonfire period. Each year over the Bonfire period, MFRS is called out to a large amount of wheelie bin fires, bonfires and other deliberately-set fires. Bonfire period was between:- 19 October and 7 November 2021 and MFRS was called out to 218 fires of this type known as:- 'secondary' fires. This uses up valuable and limited resources and takes crews away from responding to more serious and possibly life threatening incidents.

Station Manager Joe Cunliffe said:- "Deliberately started fires on the run up to Bonfire night are a huge drain on already overstretched fire service resources. What may seem like a bit of harmless fun to some can have life changing consequences and puts entire communities at risk. If firefighters are responding to a wheelie bin fire or illegal bonfire, it prevents them from responding to another incident. Please have a conversation with your children about right and wrong. You can help to reduce the number of incidents this Bonfire period by never giving combustible materials to anyone, especially young people, and making sure your wheelie bin is out of sight; only put it out on collection day and bring it back in in as soon as possible if you can. We would urge people on the run up to Bonfire night to report any combustible material that could be used for deliberate fires via our website, or by calling:- 08007315958 or via our social media pages."

As well as dealing with secondary fires, MFRS crews also see an increase in the number of attacks as they respond to incidents, particularly over the Halloween and Bonfire period.

SM Cunliffe added:- "Previous years have seen objects, including:- bricks and fireworks, thrown at fire engines as crews respond to bonfire related incidents. Such action can result in that fire engine being taken out of service for the rest of the night, meaning it cannot respond to emergencies. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. It's not fun to attack firefighters. An attack on fire crews is an attack on your own community. Don't ruin your own or someone else's future. All fire engines carry CCTV cameras and footage will be passed on to Merseyside Police. Please think twice and remember, actions have consequences."

MFRS is urging parents to have discussions with their children before they go out over the Halloween and Bonfire period about what is acceptable behaviour.

If you have any information about people involved in this type of anti-social behaviour which, every year, causes serious injury or damage, then please report it. Always contact 999 in an emergency. Alternatively, you can DM @MerPolCC on Twitter, call:- 101 or DM @CrimestoppersUK on Twitter.

For fire safety advice, or if you do not have working smoke alarms in your property, call:- 08007315958. For more tips on staying safe this Bonfire Night, check out Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service's social media accounts on:- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on YouTube or visit:- MerseyFire.Gov.UK.

Students turn to driving instructors as mental health referrals soar by 13%

NEW data reveals that learner drivers are turning to their driving instructors as mental health referrals among students at UK universities soar by 13%. An FOI request to UK universities and NHS mental health services found they are under increased pressure, revealing as many as 262,984 young people have been referred to mental health services this year alone. This means 1 in 10 provisional licence holders under the age of 25 are seeking help for their mental wellbeing. Referrals of 16- to 25 year olds to NHS mental health services, according to a second FOI request, have also increased by 12% over the same period. And wait times to access mental health services are up to 6 weeks at universities and 14 weeks on average within the NHS. There is a disparity across the UK too, with and 59,580 in Yorkshire and Humber; 78% higher than North West England, which has seen 13,140 referrals in 2022. 

Mental Health referrals by Region for universities and Healthboards:-


University referrals (students) – 2021/22 

% change since 2018/19 

NHS referrals (16-25 year olds) - 2021 

% change since 2018 






Yorkshire & Humber 





South East England 





South West England 













North West England 








North East England 



This trend is reflected among those learning to drive, with 86% of learner drivers opening up to their driving instructors about their mental health. And driving instructors are finding that students are leaning on them for more than just tips on checking mirrors and parallel parking. 80% of driving instructors find that students confide in them about mental health challenges. 

Learner drivers spend a significant amount of time with their instructors while learning to drive; 25 hours on average. 29% to 33% of students spend more time with their instructors than they do with their friends or family. So it's no surprise that 52% of learner drivers are calling for driving instructors to receive dedicated training to better equip them for conversations about mental health. 

Veygo, the learner driver insurer, has answered that call by launching a dedicated training course focused on supportive listening and signposting, provided by Samaritans for driving instructors up and down the country. The new 'Therapy Seat' programme will see instructors receive tailored training to help them recognise signs of vulnerability, initiating conversations about mental health topics and signposting to support. 

Veygo is funding 80 free places and support among the driving instructor community has been overwhelming. Instructors who are interested in programme can sign up here.

Driving Instructor Dave Holley, from the Tyres and Tarmac Driving School School has signed up for the programme. He said:- "I've been a driving instructor for 14 years now, coming up to 15, and I've noticed a lot more young learners struggling with their mental health than in my earlier career. It's natural to be anxious about driving, but sometimes there's other things going on for these young people too. They have exams and lots of things in their mind. A few months back I had a young girl that was going through a break up and I know that was distracting for her. It's not always the driving itself, sometimes a bad lesson can be the straw that broke the camel's back. Something simple like a missed mirror check in a lesson, and it can all come flooding out then. Openness is good for me as an instructor as I can tailor lessons based on stress levels or reschedule more overwhelmed lessons if there is a lot on. This course will be helpful for me to navigate these conversations and make sure I can help or direct them to other resources when there is a lot going on, as my students can be very open about how they're feeling." 

Suzanne O'Brien, Driving Instructor at The Driving Academy is also hoping the course will help her to support and signpost for her students. She said:- "People do get really anxious about learning to drive, especially as they get close to their test. I had 1 student not long ago who had previously failed her test at 7 attempts. She felt she couldn't pass her test and felt a lot of pressure and her mental health was suffering massively. When we got to the test centre, she said to me:- 'I just can't do it.' Her anxiety was that bad, she said:-'If I go out in the car, I'll end up killing me and the examiner.' So we cancelled, as it was the safest thing to do. We went away, and I helped her all I could and made sure she was comfortable, just based on my own knowledge. And she sat the test and actually passed. It was a good moment. I've taken some advice from a fellow driving instructor, a lady who does some coaching for people who have got anxiety. But it's a bit of a grey area. I'd like to know other things, and how to signpost people to other people that can help them."  

James Armstrong, CEO at Veygo says:- "It's no wonder learner drivers are leaning on instructors for more than just tips on mirror checks and parallel parking; there is a staggering number of young people being referred to mental health services. The response we've had to our Therapy Seat programme from both instructors and learners so far is overwhelming. With referrals increasing and learners spending so much time with their instructors - sometimes more than their friends and family; we want to ensure they are well-equipped to spot the signs of students who are struggling. Instructors who go through the programme will be trained to facilitate conversations around mental health and if necessary, guide students towards accessing support services. Any instructor who would like to take part in the programme; or if you're a learner driver looking for an instructor who has had this valuable training; please get in touch via our Therapy Seat Hub." 


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