accessibility & help

Volunteers help tackle the dark side of Bonfire Night

31 October 2012

Sadly, it’s not all about pumpkins, sparklers and big, blazing fires. Halloween and Bonfire Night often prompt a spike in anti-social behaviour, causing upset and worry for many.

But this year vulnerable residents in Haverhill will rest a bit easier, thanks to Operation Gunpowder – a partnership between the British Red Cross and the police service.

Mark Bradley, service manager, explains how it works: “Working alongside the police service and other community organisations, we’ve identified those households most in need of support and have been visiting them to provide reassurance and help.”

Unreported problems

While the police concentrate on dealing with issues such as anti-social behaviour, the Red Cross’ role is to deal with any social care concerns – for example, vulnerable people who might need a little extra support round the home or with shopping.

Mark added: “Obviously, we’ll help those who are known to be struggling already, but we also hope to unearth any hidden problems that might previously have gone unreported.

“Our social care volunteers can help out with all kinds of practical problems that vulnerable people face. And even if we can’t help ourselves, we’ll direct residents to other organisations that can.”

Vulnerable households

Local resident Eileen Walton (90) said: “I’ve lived here all my life and we always keep an eye on each other, but I’m very pleased to see these organisations out and about speaking with the locals.”

This isn’t the first time the Red Cross has stepped in with a little bonfire-themed help. Last year, volunteers helped with more than 2,000 visits to potentially vulnerable households in Great Yarmouth.

‘Working together’

Peter Ferrie, from Suffolk Constabulary, is pleased to be involved with Operation Gunpowder. He said: “This is a fantastic example of how organisations can work together to benefit members of the public. By getting out and proactively speaking to local people, we’ve reached different groups needing help and support that we might not otherwise have heard about.

“I am 100 per cent game for doing this again next year, and would like to see the scheme spread to other towns in the area.”

The other organisations involved include Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Havebury Housing, Haverhill Volunteer Centre and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

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