Scheme which protects vulnerable people after night out in Wolverhampton to be expanded

The Late Night Safe Haven provides somewhere safe, friendly and warm for people of all ages to wait for a licensed taxi after a night out. Credit: Wolverhampton BID

A weekend service to keep late-night visitors to Wolverhampton city centre's pubs and clubs safe from potential harm, will be improved and expanded.

The Late Night Safe Haven is run from a trailer outside Halifax Bank in Queen Square and provides medical assistance for anyone who finds themselves vulnerable or unwell due to alcohol or drug use, as well as somewhere to wait for a licensed taxi.

An initial trial of the service which was formed as part of a partnership between the council, Wolverhampton BID (Business Improvement District) and West Midlands Police in 2019, proved so successful that it was reintroduced in May 2021.

In a report to the council's statutory licensing committee, service manager for Trading Standards Paul Dosanjh said: "A key feature of the safe haven is to help obtain taxis for customers who wish to go home safely and quickly at the end of the night.

"It is a secure supervised space with first aid provision, hot drinks, water and free flip-flops for those who wish to remove their heeled shoes which may make them prone to trip hazards on the way home.

"Also, a team of two night guardians provide a friendly welcome to all visitors to the city during the evening. They assist and liaise with venues to ensure the smooth running of the evening economy and provide a visual deterrent to assist with any anti-social behaviour.

"A notable intervention was where safe haven colleagues spotted a distressed female on a night out. A man had grabbed hold of her and was walking through the square, pretending they were a couple. The woman then made a hand gesture to members of the team who intervened immediately.

"The woman was supported whilst the male continued to try and coax her away. By alerting police and waiting with the woman until they arrived, the team were able to ensure that no harm came to her. Officers arrived, investigated and arrested a man who was subsequently charged with kidnap," he added.

People are able to receive hot drinks and charge their mobile phones if low, while waiting for a licensed taxi. Credit: Wolverhampton BID

"Another safe haven initiative is the roll out of the 'Ask for Angela' campaign which provides a route of safety through asking bar staff to 'Ask for Angela' for anyone who finds themselves threatened during a night out in one of the participating premises."

Following a £15,000 funding award from West Midlands Police in 2021, a welfare vehicle was also purchased.

The vehicle has a small seating area as well as the provision to provide hot drinks and charge mobile phones for customers whose low charge means that they cannot contact anyone.

A number of improvements to the van are also being undertaken including the addition of an awning and wind shield at a one-off cost of £1,426. There are also proposals to hire portable toilets which can be located in close proximity.

"The council and BID currently aim to run the safe haven for 40 nights a year, but with the welcome re-addition of the Civic Halls to the night-time economy we would like to be in a position to run the service for 50 nights. The projected annual cost of this would be £17,409," said Mr Dosanjh.

At present, the BID provides £12,000 a year to pay for the provision of the St John Ambulance and £10,000 for the night guardians.

Licensing services, who are in discussions with the University of Wolverhampton to recruit volunteers for the service, will discuss the expansion of the safe haven initiative next Wednesday (January 11).