A new scheme will launch in Banbury next month aimed at making the town a safer environment for vulnerable people.
It is hoped local shops, businesses and facilities – such as libraries, museums and leisure centres – will sign up to provide a safe place if someone is feeling lost, worried or threatened.
The project aims to help vulnerable groups of people, such as elderly people with dementia, or people with learning disabilities and mental health needs.
The launch event will take place at the Banbury Museum Education Resource Centre in Castle Quays Shopping Centre on 5 December. There will be a presentation at 11am from Hannah O’Neill, from the Milton Keynes Anti Hate Crime Group and a role play to show why Safe Places are necessary by self advocates with learning disabilities from My Life My Choice.
Businesses that take part in the scheme will be identified with a distinctive logo in the window (see attached), which will be issued with the approval of local Thames Valley Police officers and periodically checked by Safe Places volunteers.
Those who might benefit from the scheme will be issued with a contact card, providing a named person to contact if they are in need of help.
If someone shows the card in a Safe Place, the business or shop will contact the helper named on the card and keep the vulnerable person safe until their supporter arrives.
Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council, Oxfordshire Family Support Network, My Life My Choice, and the management of the Castle Quays Shopping Centre and Styleacre have come together to set up the project.
Recently, The Mid-Counties Cooperative Society has also joined the partnership and is keen to roll out Safe Places across the region because they have a network of local shops that are open in the evenings.
Maria Breen who’s son has Aspergers Syndrome said:
“Launching Safe Places is wonderful news for vulnerable people like my son who is 19 and has a learning disability. He has been bullied in the past by strangers in town and felt he had nowhere to turn to. He badly wants to be independent and Safe Places will enable him to go out with the confidence he will have somewhere to go if he feels he is at risk whilst out in the community.”
Superintendent Katharine Lowe, Area Commander for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire, said:
“This initiative is a really simple but effective idea to help people who may need a little extra support when they are out, should they get confused or anxious. It is really great that businesses and organisations feel they want to and are able to support this scheme and my thanks to them for this support.”
Bee Maidlow, who works in Oxfordshire County Council Community Connecting Team, said:
“Oxfordshire County Council wants to enable more people with learning disabilities to be present and take an active part in the community. It is important that everyone is safe while out and about. The Safe Places scheme is a way in which Banbury people can support vulnerable people in their community and help them feel safe.”
Karen McNeill, communities co-ordinator from the Mid-Counties Cooperative, said:
“Our stores are at the heart of many local communities across Oxfordshire and have a strong commitment to support local people in lots of different ways. We’re very pleased that our stores in the area will extend the Safe Places network and increase awareness and visibility of the scheme.”
Jan Sunman, from Oxfordshire Family Support Network, said:
“This scheme came about in Oxfordshire because local older family carers had said that they wanted the peace of mind of knowing that there were people who would look out for their relatives with a learning disability, whilst out in their local communities. The scheme offers support to all vulnerable groups of people. Please join us for a cup of coffee and to find out more at the Banbury Museum on 5 December.”