Students from the University of Cumbria are keeping women in Carlisle city centre safe on Saturday nights as part of a wider Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) campaign.
The 17 volunteers will rotate on Saturday nights helping anyone who feels vulnerable or unsafe on a night out. The scheme has been introduced as part of the Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) project which has been funded by a successful bid from Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, to the Home Office’s SWaN Fund for £116,925. The volunteers will be based at a multi-agency welfare hub outside Carlisle train station. They are trained in first aid, conflict resolution, safeguarding and can support and signpost those in need to the correct service.
The volunteers are managed by Carlisle’s Neighbourhood Policing Team and have been out in Carlisle since the 2 April. Three paid Safer Streets Coordinators will join the team later in the year.
The SWaN funding also provided the Welfare Hub gazebo, branded uniforms for the volunteers and equipment including a defibrillator, drunk test strips and drink protectors to avoid spiking, drug wipes and space blankets. Anyone in need of help or advice can visit the Welfare Hub.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Everyone has the right to go on a night out, enjoy themselves and get home safe.
“However, we know that this isn’t always the case – especially for women. That’s why projects such as the Welfare Hub and the 17 volunteers are so important: a safe place for women to go when they feel like they may be in danger or feeling vulnerable.
“The volunteers on this scheme can help women with a range of support including getting a lift home from a safe and reputable taxi or simply provide them with a safe place to wait for their family, friend or partner to pick them up.
“Working with Street Pastors and the Police I am confident that our team of volunteers will make a real difference and I am enormously grateful to every one of them for stepping up.
Violence against women and girls has become one of the biggest priorities in policing but it’s not just the role of the Police to end this violence.
“We all have a role to play in keeping our streets safe for all, it’s a societal and a community issue and we all need to play our part to keep everyone around us safe.
“Of course, the Police have a huge role to play but we can all help by showing each other respect and identifying any potential toxic behaviours within ourselves and rectify these before causing harm. Equally we can watch out for others and seek help when necessary.
The team in the Welfare Hub are doing a great job and I would encourage anyone on a night out who feels vulnerable, in danger or needs help to reach out to the volunteers, or indeed to the Police.”
Chief Superintendent Lisa Hogan, Cumbria Constabulary, said: “I’d like to first thank all these volunteers for giving up their own time to help make women and girls feel safe.
“The Welfare Hub in Carlisle city centre is there for anyone who feels unsafe. This is one of many initiatives that we at Cumbria Constabulary are working on to keep women and girls safe.
“The safety of women and girls is a priority area for our police force. We will continue to everything we can to ensure that Cumbria is safe for women and girls, whilst relentlessly pursuing perpetrators.
“We work closely with our partner agencies and community groups to ensure that the approach to keeping women and girls safe in Cumbria is coordinated and effective.
“If you have been a victim of crime, please contact the police. All reports are taken seriously and are subject of thorough investigation. Alongside any investigation, is a commitment to ensuring that victims receive the appropriate support.”
Gary Slater, principal lecturer of policing at the University of Cumbria, said: “We are delighted that a number of our students doing criminology, law, policing and security degree programmes are involved as Safer Streets Volunteers in the night-time welfare hub outside Carlisle Railway Station.
“They’ve completed all the necessary training provided in readiness for this.
“Not only are they promoting safer environments for women and girls, the volunteering roles offer our students a real opportunity to fulfil their passion of making a positive contribution to the community in which they live and study now and in the future.”