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Beds Fire: Pride no prejudice

During the month of June, LGBT Pride is usually a vibrant celebration of diversity and provides an opportunity to raise awareness of current issues facing the LGBT community.

Due to the current pandemic, many of these national celebrations have been cancelled or moved to virtual platforms. However, as Pride month comes to a close, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and blue light partners wish to reiterate their support to the county’s LGBT community.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Andy Peckham said: “Equality, diversity and inclusion is a fundamental part of our values as a Service. With Pride month, in parallel with the current ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, it is more important than ever to reaffirm our position; promoting that our Service is for everyone, without fear or favour.

“We are proud of the diversity within our Service and we stand together with our partners across the county to support our BAME and LGBT colleagues and communities, especially at this time, to challenge prejudice and discrimination.”

Earlier this year, the Service relaunched its LGBT+ Staff Network, demonstrating commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion aims.

LGBT+ Network Co-Chair, Emma Jennings said: “Research shows that almost half of trans people (46 per cent) have thought about taking their own life in the last year and over half of LGBT people have experienced depression. Therefore the Network has made it a priority to provide clear LGBT specific support and helpline advice to all staff during this pandemic.

“Evidence shows that employees are more productive and more engaged when they don’t have to edit or adapt themselves in fear of discrimination. For us, it is about fostering an inclusive culture in the workplace so everyone feels comfortable to be themselves.”

Network Co-Chair and Firefighter David Lynas added: “It is important for our communities that we demonstrate support. Research suggests that LGBT communities may be at greater risk of certain fire related incidents than their heterosexual counterparts, so it is crucial our services are fully inclusive and that we remain approachable for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Service is making further links with Police and Ambulance colleagues to ensure wider network opportunities and support for the future, in order to build on the strong relationships already made.

Lucy Cannon, co-chair of Bedfordshire Police’s LGBT+ Network, said: “Our force has a zero tolerance approach to crimes against the LGBT+ community in Bedfordshire.

“Everyone has the right to be safe and secure, and to live free from fear or harassment. Crimes based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate and have no place in our society.

“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with our blue light colleagues to stand united.”

Jim Graves- Senior Paramedic and Chair of #WeAreEEAST LGBT Network added: “In these new and challenging times, it is even more important than ever that we all work together to support our community. I am looking forward to building a strong relationship with our colleagues at Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service.”