Scheme to stop bullying

A JOINT scheme to help prevent bullying, abuse and harassment of people with learning difficulties has been launched in Horsham but could be set for countywide rollout.

The Safe Place scheme is a joint West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police initiative that provides a place of safety in towns, cities or villages for anyone with a learning disability whenever they feel threatened or unsafe.

Scheme members carry a card that can be presented to staff at participating businesses and shops, displaying the person’s name and contact number of someone they trust that the store can contact in an emergency.

Businesses in Horsham that have signed up to provide a safe haven are denoted by having a ‘making our community a safer place’ sticker displayed in their window.

Participating businesses in the town include the salon Lookfantastic.

Co-owner Rebecca Mason said: “I am supporting this because it’s really important to look after the whole community and that includes everybody. We are a local business and everyone who works here lives in or near to Horsham so it’s nice to look after the community.”

Scheme ambassadors, who have learning disabilities, hope to have up to 30 businesses signed up in Horsham with the police. The hope is now to roll the scheme out across the county.

Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services, said: “This is a fantastic idea that will help people with learning disabilities integrate into the community.

“If people with a learning disability don’t feel safe and feel they can not move around freely how can they integrate into their communities?”

Chief Inspector Sharon Parker, District Commander of Horsham, said: “I hope that the introduction of this scheme in Horsham will assist with helping vulnerable people in going about their lives in the knowledge that support is available should they need it.”

National statistics indicate that people with a learning disability are four times more likely than others to be robbed with violence or threats, one in four people with a learning disability say they have been physically assaulted while nine out of 10 people with a learning disability say they have experienced bullying in the last year.

Membership is free. To apply people can download a form from the Safe Places website at www.westsussex.gov.uk/safeplace, or email Gary Capelin at gary.capelin@westsussex.gov.uk or write to The Safe Places Scheme, The Strawford Centre, Blatchford Close, Horsham RH13 5RG.