Sheffield Safe Places looking to expand its network, despite isolation measures

The Sheffield Safe Places network has revealed it is looking to gain new members, despite the current worldwide pandemic making it difficult to promote its ethos of social engagement.
Sheffield Safe Places networkSheffield Safe Places network
Sheffield Safe Places network

Safe Places was launched in the city eight years ago, to support adults who may feel vulnerable when they are out and about in Sheffield, by widening their social circle and providing them with a list of registered ‘safe places’ to go to for help.

Olivia Trevor, the Sheffield Scheme Coordinator, has admitted the current lockdown is causing difficulties for a service whose aim is to get people outside and socialising.

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She said: “Usually we want to promote well-being and reduce social isolation, but it’s very hard to promote that in this current time.

“We’re holding back on encouraging people to get out and we’re trying to work out where is still open.”

Andrew Culkin, director of the Safe Places National Network, has warned of the mental health repercussions from the current isolation measures.

He said: “Safe Places schemes will undoubtedly be more important than ever when we finally emerge from these unprecedented times.

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“Social isolation can have a significant negative impact on people’s mental health.

“When the social distancing measures are lifted by the UK government, it is vital safe places schemes are ready to support vulnerable people and to encourage them to re-engage with their local community.”

Sheffield Safe Places focuses on providing vulnerable people, mainly those with mental disabilities, with temporary refuge across South Yorkshire.

People wishing to have access to safe places can obtain a passport containing information such as contact details, health conditions and their local safe place. Safe places can range from libraries to cafes, such as the Millennium Gallery and Sheffield Winter Gardens.

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The scheme, which is run out of Heeley City Farm, and is operated in conjunction with Sheffield City Council, has also collaborated with special educational needs and disability education establishments.

New ‘safe place’ members are trained by the Sheffield Safe Places team and SEND volunteers, to understand how to deal with situations involving vulnerable people.

Ms Trevor added: “All staff at a new safe place can meet the volunteers and learn about what it’s like to have learning disabilities.”

The Safe Places team recently struck a deal with Sheffield Supertrams to place flyers and posters within their trams running through the city.

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Although keen on expansion, Ms Trevor highlighted how it is more important for members to meet the required criteria to facilitate vulnerable people.

This includes ensuring members can properly accommodate those with mental and physical disabilities.

“We’re looking for quality not quantity,” she said.

“Future members need right insurances in place, we want them to be in the right locations as well.

“We have got gaps in certain areas and I’m really happy for people to come forward and suggest a local area that needs one.”

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To date, there are over 250 independent safe places operating across the UK, under an umbrella of 34 schemes which form a national network.

Joining the national network comes at a cost of around £7.60 per week, with many schemes looking for sponsorship from local charities or local businesses.