North Yorkshire has launched a scheme which will create a network of Safe Places throughout the county where people can go to get help if they are feeling anxious or at risk.
The County Council has established the scheme along with North Yorkshire Police, district councils, the voluntary sector, travel organisations and pharmacies, with the aim of helping people lead independent lives and feel safe.
Registered Safe Places will display the ‘Safe Place’ symbol on their window or door so that people who are out and about and begin to feel anxious or at risk – be it because they have learning difficulties, disabilities, frailty, dementia or mental health problems – can look out for the symbol and enter the Safe Place to get help.
Up to 120 public sector organisations across the county – libraries, leisure centres, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Northern Rail and Trans Pennine stations, community and children’s centres – have registered in this first phase and are displaying the Safe Places sticker.
People can become members of the scheme which means they can carry a ‘keep safe’ card and may have a wristband. On the card there is a call centre number that can be contacted by the Safe Place. The call centre then contacts a person named on the member’s card, usually a close family member or friend, who will come to give support.
Safe Places is a growing, national initiative, which the County Council and Police are developing to complement the positive work of its Living Well and Stronger Communities teams which support people to live more independent lives. Safe Places is designed to give people the confidence to go out in the knowledge that if they cannot cope or feel at risk there is a network of places where they can get help quickly.
“This is a truly excellent scheme which strengthens our communities” said County Councillor Clare Wood, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health Integration. “We hope the Safe Place sign will become a very widely used symbol across the county as a sign that North Yorkshire is a welcoming and caring place.
“It is a very practical scheme which helps us to look out for one another in our day to day lives and gives organisations and businesses the means to support the vulnerable in our society through this very simple mechanism which can secure reliable and timely help for people in difficulty.”
Safe Places can help a wide range of people from those who are feeling confused or lost and need somewhere to sit and get hold of a friend or relative, to those who have been abused or assaulted and need somebody to call the police.
Chief Inspector Nick Hunter, hate crime lead for North Yorkshire Police said Safe Places was about best practice and about improving quality of life: “Everybody has the right to go out in their community and visit places and feel safe. We hope that this scheme will give people, some of whom might be fearful to step outside their front door, the confidence to go out knowing that there will be a safe haven at hand.
“Putting a sign up which says “We are people who can help you” is about being part of a 21st century community. In the past when places were more closely knit people knew who to look out for. These days when populations are more mobile and transient, Safe Places provides organisations and businesses the means to enhance the community by helping to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable.”
In a second phase the County Council plans to widen the scheme to include GP surgeries and commercial and business organisations. It is currently in discussion with retail companies such as M & S.
Safe Places was launched at Allerton Court Hotel, which is one of the first businesses to sign up. Its manager George Douglas said staff members were proud to work at one of the first Safe Places in the county. “We like to think we are part of the community spirit, being welcoming and looking out for people. As a hotel we are a 24 hour operation and so we can be there as a Safe Place when other centres have closed for the night. We have great respect for what the county council is doing with this scheme and we want to be part of it. It’s no great hardship for us. All we have to do is to make people welcome, settle them down and make the necessary call. It’s a wonderful idea.”
Mark Hamblin, co-chair of the self-advocates forum in Scarborough and a member of the Safe Places group said, “Sometimes I have panic attacks and knowing that there are Safe Places to go to helps me to feel confident to get out and about. I think Safe Places will help many other people to feel confident to keep going out and being independent.”