New Year’s Honours 2017:​ Essex County Fire and Rescue Service community worker Donna Finch gets MBE

Donna with Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley

Donna with Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s community development and safeguarding manager has been awarded an MBE for services to children, young people and vulnerable adults in the community.

Donna Finch, from Burnham-on-Crouch, has been recognised in appreciation of the role she has played in the fire service and the life changing programmes she has developed.

“I am thrilled, deeply honoured and humbled by the news,” she said.

“There are so many deserving people, so to learn I was nominated was such a special feeling. My passion, and that of the whole team, is to provide real opportunities to those vulnerable in our communities. I truly love my job and I intend to ensure that our work continues to make a difference.

“I have had fantastic support over the years, I have learnt from the very best. I am so incredibly proud of the Community Development team whose commitment and professionalism ensures each Firebreak course, education programme or safeguarding interaction is delivered with maximum impact. They really are making a huge difference in our communities and I incredibly proud of each and every one of them.

“I’d also like to thank our partners for their encouragement and continued support. Without them, thousands of students would not have had the opportunity to take part in our Firebreak programme and make those positive changes that really do turn lives around.”

Donna, who has been with the service since 2004, manages the service’s firebreak programmes, the school’s education programme, Essex Fire Cadets, the juvenile fire-setter scheme, the Duke of Edinburgh national licence for the Chief Fire Officer Association (CFOA) and is safeguarding manager for children and adults.

Over the past 12 years, Firebreak has helped more than 5,000 students, and the courses have been expanded into all areas of society working with youth offenders, troubled families, those dependent on drugs and/or alcohol, the long term unemployed, a number of charities and most recently to reduce offending behaviour; this new course was recently delivered in two prisons.

One of the service’s most successful partnership schemes has been its work with children with Down’s Syndrome, working with charity Down Syndrome Extra 21.

Earlier this year, that work was recognised with ECFRS being awarded a World Down Syndrome Award from Down Syndrome International. This Firebreak programme is now delivered in Australia and America.

Donna and the Essex County Fire and Rescue Community Services team at the Essex Chronicle's and Brentwood Gazette's Business Excellence Awards 2016

Donna and the Essex County Fire and Rescue Community Services team at the Essex Chronicle’s and Brentwood Gazette’s Business Excellence Awards 2016

Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley said: “This recognition is well deserved and I’m incredibly proud of Donna and all her achievements and contributions to the service over the past 12 years.

“Donna and her team continue to achieve outstanding results in helping people to improve and create better lives for themselves.

Maria Barnett, lead for safeguarding children at Essex County Council, said: “Donna is a highly valued member of the Essex Safeguarding Children Board, who has dedicated herself to transforming the lives of children, families and communities, particularly from the more disadvantaged areas in our society.

“Her passion for safeguarding children, coupled with her innovative and creative ideas in helping vulnerable young people turn their lives around, has made a real difference that has delivered lasting results.”

Greg Stuttle, chairman of Down Syndrome Extra 21, said: “Donna approached our charity ten years ago with the idea to develop a bespoke Firebreak course to benefit and inspire all our members and their families. She has been the driving force behind designing courses that have helped our young people learn essential life skills while improving their teamwork and confidence.

“I’m so pleased that she has been recognised for the work she does with so many groups of people across the county – not just our charity – and I feel fortunate and proud to work so closely with her as a partner.”