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South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue signs first data sharing deal


South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) and Barnsley Council have signed a data sharing agreement in an effort to ensure more people have smoke alarms and receive advice on preventing blazes.

It is the first in what the fire service hopes will be a series of agreements to help it target assistance towards people needing support.

A spokesperson told UKAuthority it is essentially a one-way agreement, under which the council’s data on about 4,000 people receiving assisted bin collections – who are unable to do so by themselves – will be fed into SYFR’s database through the latter’s Spinr data platform.

“We don’t have the household level data but it is held by bodies such as local authorities and health organisations,” he said.

The Spinr platform places the emphasis on using APIs for a cloud based data integration. SYFR is using it to identify people to whom it can offer support, working on the established link between people receiving assisted collections and risk of fire.

Common sense approach

Its area manager Steve Helps, said: “This is a brilliant example of where data protection laws - which are rightly in place to protect people’s information - should not get in the way of public bodies working together, in the public interest, to make people safer. By having the right safeguards and privacy protocols in place, we’ve shown that a common sense approach can cut duplication of effort and potentially save people’s lives.

“So many of the people who needlessly die in house fires are known to another agency whether that’s a local authority, social housing provider or health partner. So our aspiration is that, where appropriate, we can develop further data sharing agreements like this with other public services in the future under the legislation available to us.”

The spokesperson added that Barnsley Council is the first organisation to sign an agreement and SYFR hopes that others will soon follow, especially when they see that steps have been taken to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

Between 2011 and 2017, 53 people died in house fires in South Yorkshire. Many of those who died (61%) were older people aged 50 or over, with fire service investigations finding that issues such as hoarding, drugs, alcohol and mental health problems frequently contributing to the fires starting. Half of those who died lived on their own.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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