A new initiative to help women feel safer at night has been rolled out at the weekends in Stafford.
The Stafford Safe Space Bus will become a feature in the centre of the town and is part of a joint scheme aimed at making the area safer for women.
The bus is manned by the Stafford Street Pastors who are available to help people that are upset or feeling vulnerable in the town at the busiest times of the night.
The vehicle has taken up residence in the town’s Market Square and been converted to provide room for people to have a space to be able to talk with the street pastors – who will help make sure they are able to get home safely.
Stafford Borough Council helped purchase the bus after securing funding from the Staffordshire Commissioners Office (SCO) to support initiatives aimed at tackling violence against women and girls. The SCO was successful in a £300,000 bid from the government’s Safety of Women at Night Fund (SWaN) to support areas across the county.
Previous initiatives launched by the borough council have seen taxi marshalls at ranks during the busiest pub and club times, as well as special lids distributed to prevent drinks being spiked, and training for workers and volunteers in the night-time economy to help those that may be vulnerable or being harassed.
Councillor Jeremy Pert, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities, said it was another demonstration of how they were working in partnership to keep the public safe.
“Looking after our residents and keeping them safe is at the heart of everything that is driven forward by the council.
“Tragic events nationally brought to the forefront concerns about women and girls’ safety in public places and highlighted how they are disproportionately affected by sexual assaults and sexual and verbal harassment.
“That is why our new Stafford Safe Space Bus, along with several other initiatives, seek to improve the safety of women in public spaces at night in the town.
“It is important that we demonstrate that making anyone feel insecure in any of our public spaces is simply unacceptable – and we value the help and support of partners across the public and voluntary sector in not just highlighting this issue but doing something tangible about it.”
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire & Rescue and Crime, Ben Adams said:
“Reducing violence against women and girls – and the fear of violence – is a key priority for me as Commissioner. It forms an important part of our broader partnership preventative approach to reducing violence through the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Violence Reduction Alliance.
“The Safety of Women at Night Fund was a welcome addition to vital work already underway across the county with our partners. The funds have enabled us to invest in a range of practical initiatives, including the Stafford Safe Space Bus, that not only increase the safety of women and girls but also ensure they feel safer too when enjoying nights out in our popular towns and cities.”
Trevor Partington, Chair of Stafford Street Pastors, said:
“Stafford Street Pastors are very grateful to Stafford Borough Council for the grant, making it possible for us to buy the Safe Space Bus. As volunteers from the Churches in and around Stafford, it has been our privilege to serve the Community since 2009.
“Now, being able to provide a ‘Safe Space’ during the evening and into the early hours, as well as patrolling the town to keep the streets safe, will greatly enhance our work. The team of Street Pastors on the bus will be available for anyone who needs to spend time there, while the team on the street will continue to visit the venues and observe and offer support on the streets as before.”