Coming into any city centre during peak shopping times can be confusing. Streets full of hectic shoppers, pushchairs, noisy excitable children and busy traffic noises. Couple that with the busiest time of the year, and it’s fair to say that it’s even busier and noisier.
Imagine how even more disorientating it can be if you are an adult with a learning disability who has come into town by yourself. All those lights: people stopping unexpectedly in the middle of the street and staff busy with queues of customers keen to snap up bargains; people often too busy to help you. Just think how you would feel if in the next shop window you saw a Safe Places scheme sticker and you knew that meant here was a place where staff would help you and that you would be safe. It would be a haven in the city.
There is such a scheme available in Leeds – the Leeds “Safe Places Scheme”. The idea is very simple: shops, offices and businesses sign up to become a registered Safe Place and display a sticker in their window. Adults with a learning disability who are members of the scheme carry a card with them on which they write a list of their personal emergency telephone numbers. If the person with a learning disability needs help, for example because they have become lost, frightened or bullied, they look for a Safe Place sticker in a nearby location. They ask a member of staff there to help them by ringing one of the telephone numbers on the card. In this way, assistance can be summoned quickly from someone who knows the vulnerable person well.
In summer 2012 Leeds City Council launched a Safe Places Scheme and the City Bus Station became the first Safe Place to be registered. Since then more than 20 organisations have joined the Scheme providing over 100 Safe Places between them in a variety of locations including leisure centres, libraries, museums and offices across Leeds.
Carol Benson, the Safe Places Coordinator, said:
“Over 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. Most of the Safe Place providers consider that the scheme simply formalises an activity they already do in terms of supporting customers.
“We have been working to encourage other local authorities and organisations in Yorkshire to start a scheme too. In 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.”
Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for Adult Social Care said:
“I would urge as many businesses as possible to sign up for this scheme and help to make Leeds a city where every resident feels safe.”
The scheme wants to expand the number of available locations and would love to hear from any organisations who are interested in registering as a Safe Place. Every Safe Place provider is offered a short training session which is delivered by people with a learning disability, supported by staff from the Learning Disability Community Support Service. The scheme is free to join for both Safe Place providers and members.
To watch the video Safe Places which shares more information on the scheme, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t85z6R8ODY
To find out more or to sign up to the Safe Places scheme send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively call 0113 3781919 or write to Leeds City Council Learning Disability Community Support Service, Roseville Skills Building, 65 Roundhay Rd, Leeds LS7 3BQ.