JACK Straw has given his full backing to a scheme launched this week to help children get streetwise and deal with life-threatening situations.

And the Blackburn MP and Home Secretary will witness the programme first hand today (Friday) when he visits an area of Queens Park Hospital where the Streetwise in Partnership initiative has been running all week.

The multi-agency scheme is run to encourage children to learn and practise personal safety skills and in turn help reduce the problem of juvenile nuisance.

With 1,200 Year Six pupils from 41 schools in Blackburn and Darwen taking part, it is the biggest event of its kind ever to be held in the borough.

Mr Straw said: "Everyone should be aware of how to prevent accidents, what to do in an emergency and how to look after themselves safely. To this extent Streetwise in Partnership will be very beneficial to all the school children in Blackburn and Darwen and I wish Lancashire Constabulary every success with this project."

During the programme, which runs until the end of next week, children are put in real-life situations and taught how to deal with emergencies such as dealing with gas leaks and what to do in case of a fire.

Pat Fowler, headteacher of Daisyfield Primary School in Blackburn, has no doubts about the importance of the scheme.

She said: "I would like to see this scheme run every year so that children can learn these very important life skills. In such a controlled environment the police can teach children something we can never hope of doing in the classroom.

"You can only tell them so much but being put in a real life situation certainly puts the point across."

Agencies involved include Blackburn Police, Lancashire Fire Brigade, the council and the gas and electricity utilities.

The project has been funded by British Aerospace which has helped finance the printing of information booklet.

Stuart Mellor, site general manager at BAe Samlesbury, said: "We are pleased to sponsor the event as part of our ongoing community programme.

"This sponsorship is a typical example of our support since personal safety and awareness of danger are important to everyone, especially children.

"By reading the booklet and attending the event, children will undoubtedly learn from the Streetwise initiative and hopefully pass the information on to their friends and family."

Crime prevention officer, Sergeant Alan Holt, who has co-ordinated the event with PC Geoff Chadwick, added: "This is a scheme to give children first-hand experience of how to cope with dangers they will hopefully not have to encounter.

"It is another aspect of our commitment to the community to keep them safe, involved and reassured."

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