Devon and Cornwall’s unique Tri-Service Safety Officers model deserves more attention from the Government

The TSSOs (Tri-Service Safety Officers) model is unique to the force area of Devon and Cornwall. Nowhere else in the UK are officers employed, commissioned and deployed in the same integrated way they are in Devon and Cornwall. These officers, as the name suggests, work across the three services of the police, fire, and NHS. They are police community support officers, on-call firemen attached to a local fire station and NHS first responders.

They are jointly funded by Devon and Cornwall Police, Cornwall Council’s fire service and the local NHS, with additional funding coming from the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and some through the integrated care system.

The role is a vocation in its own right and provides an innovative approach to resolving community safety matters by jointly targeting and identifying issues.

A TSSO’s main duties are wide-ranging and complex. They include:
• Responding to 999 calls for fire and rescue and ambulance service calls
• Dealing with non-immediate police community safety matters
• Completing multi-agency home safety visits
• Resolving complex neighbourhood policing issues
• Working with the local Anti-Social Behaviour caseworker
• Integrating and supporting the neighbourhood policing team
• Assisting with neighbourhood enquiries (non-emergency 101 calls made to police)

A key theme from this extensive list of duties is the focus on prevention, early intervention and reducing vulnerability. When tasked through any of the three service they look to problem solve from a multi-agency perspective.

A basic example of a TSSO’s holistic approach would be: while attending a police neighbourhood dispute they may fit a smoke alarm, make a health referral, signpost a family to a third sector organisation, and explore suitable pathways to Cornwall Councils services other support services, all the while ensuring the highest levels of safeguarding are in place for vulnerable members of our communities which the TSSO leads on.

Figures from 2022-23 show that TSSOs in Cornwall responded to 3000 incidents with close to 50 incidents where they administered urgent, first aid using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillators.

That year also saw one of the officers, TSSO Hart, receive a Chief Superintendent’s commendation in respect of outstanding work in dealing with a collapsed male who was believed to be suffering a heart attack.

The value of TSSOs cannot be overstated. They are hugely welcomed by the communities they serve and help assist.

In recent years TSSOs have linked up with the Cornwall based charity FLEET – the Front Line Emergency Equipment Trust – to deliver 200 raizer lifting chairs (mobile lifting chairs for a fallen person to be lifted up from the floor after a fall) to care homes to help enable people to be safer at home.

All TSSOs now carry a Raizer chair in their vehicle because of the £35,000 funding gained in support of this project.

This comes on top of partnering with schools on junior lifeskills and engaging with over 1500 school children across Cornwall, offering them the chance to hear directly from TSSOs at police and fire stations to learn about their work.

In the long term this emphasis on prevention of vulnerability and early intervention aims to reduce the calls coming into our 999 service.

We now have 13 TSSOs in Cornwall, including in Fowey and St Dennis in my constituency of St Austell and Newquay and I am pleased that another one will shortly be in place in Mevagissey, near St Austell. But we are not keeping this to ourselves. Being the generous people we are in Cornwall, we are sharing the service with our neighbours in Devon, with a two-year pilot commencing in Holsworthy, Torridge.

These locations have a broad overlap with levels of deprivation, as five of the TSSOs are currently based within the community network area of the 10% most deprived areas in Cornwall as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.

These are areas that see higher health inequalities, higher crime rates and vulnerability risk factors.

A whole-system, multi-agency approach is key to addressing the challenges that areas of high deprivation, building safer communities, and reducing front-line demand.
The TSSO is therefore uniquely placed to not just bridge the three-pronged gap but also do so in a cost-effective way, delivering excellent value to taxpayers. model is based on each of the three services contributing a third each. A TSSO role costs £48,000 every year, meaning each service contributes £16,000 each, which represents excellent value for money given the positive feedback and outcomes.

There is a real desire to expand the service across Devon and Cornwall. This unique model deserves more attention from the Government and should be encouraged in other parts of the country, especially in rural, hard to reach areas.

Steve Double MP

Steve Double is the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, and first elected in 2015.