Pubs, clubs and other businesses can be part of the safe places scheme to make Leeds a less intimidating place for people with learning disabilities. Juliette Bains reports.
VENUES and businesses across Leeds can help make the city a Safe Place for people with learning disabilities by signing up to a scheme.
Leeds City Council’s Safe Places project aims to help adults with learning disabilities cope with any distressing incidents when they are out and about in their communities.
Places that sign up for the scheme are then fully trained up by people who have learning disabilities themselves.
Once the training is over, the venues are given a Safe Places sticker to display in their window, letting those with learning disabilities know they can go inside for support if and when they need it.
A string of council-managed buildings, including all of the city’s libraries, sports centres and museums, have already signed up to the free scheme, with more than 100 venues now taking part.
Organisers now want more private sector venues to come forward and take part to help make the city as safe as possible for some of its vulnerable residents.
Carol Benson is Leeds City Council’s Safe Places co-ordinator.
She said: “More than 200 people have already signed up to be members of the scheme.
“People with a learning disability tell me they feel safer now because they know there are places they can go if they need help whilst out and about in Leeds.
“Also carers say they are more confident about allowing their son or daughter to travel independently.”
She added: “We have been working to encourage other local authorities and organisations in Yorkshire to start a scheme too.
“That way, people with a learning disability will not only be able to travel around Leeds, but also across city borders and still feel safe.”
Safe Places is designed to help people with a learning disability deal with situations such as being harassed, getting lost or coping when the person they are meeting have failed to turn up.
As part of the project, adults who join Safe Places receive a distinctive wristband and an emergency contact card.
The card has space for them to write down details of up to three of their emergency contacts, who staff at participating venues will get in touch with when they are approached for help.
More than 200 people in Leeds with learning disabilities are currently taking part in the project.
Councillor Adam Ogilvie is Leeds City Council’s executive member for Adult Social Care.
He said: “The Safe Places scheme has been operating since last summer now and in that time, it’s been encouraging to see the growing number of places around the city that have become designated places where adults with learning disabilities can go if they get lost, are being harassed or become distressed for any reason.
“It’s important that people with learning disabilities feel able to live their lives as independently as they possibly can.
“But, to enable them to do that, it’s equally important that they also know they have a safe place to turn to if something happens that they might find difficult or distressing.”
Councillor Ogilvie added: “I would urge as many businesses as possible to sign up for the Safer Places scheme and help to make Leeds a city where every resident feels safe.”
The Leeds Safe Places Scheme is led by Leeds City Council Adult Social Care in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and Leeds and York NHS Partnership Foundation Trust.
Safe Places schemes are currently being launched up and down the country, with the aim of creating a nationwide network to help vulnerable people.
The first Safe Place in Leeds was launched at the city bus station during Learning Disability Week in June 2012.
Sensory Leeds is just one venue that has signed up to be a Safe Place.
The centre near Headingley Train Station offers people with learning disabilities a sensory experience to help them relax and unwind.
Meadow Hudson, chief executive of Sensory Leeds, said: “It’s extremely important to have a scheme like this, because disability hate crime has risen dramatically in the past two years, by over 200 per cent.
“We’ve had people passing by who have seen the stickers and then come in for a cup of tea, which has been great.”
As well as a Safe Places sticker, venues that sign up to the scheme will receive tailor-made training for staff, led by people with learning disabilities.
The council has also produced a video, which includes representatives from different agencies explaining the Safe Places project and how it works.
To watch an extract of the video, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t85z6R8ODY.
To find out more or to sign up to the Safe Places scheme, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, call 0113 378 1919 or write to: Leeds City Council Learning Disability Community Support Service, Roseville Skills Building, 65 Roundhay Road, Leeds, LS7 3BQ.
VITAL HAVEN FOR VULNERABLE PEOPLE
THE scheme was launched last year and already has 200 people signed up.
It aims to help vulnerable people with learning disabilities cope with distressing situations.
Businesses can sign up to be a Safe Place and will get training and a Safe Places sticker for their windows.
People with learning disabilities receive a wristband and a card with their emergency contacts on and can enter any venue with the sticker on and get help.
For more, visit: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/LDCSS-safe-places.aspx.