Helping create a “Safe Place” for people with learning disabilities in Worthing

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A joint scheme to help prevent bullying, abuse and harassment of people with learning disabilities is being set up in the Worthing, Adur and Arun areas of West Sussex.

Launched in Horsham, the award-winning Safe Place scheme has proved to be so successful that West Sussex County Council now wants to establish the scheme in some coastal parts of the county.

It is looking for support from local businesses and volunteers to help in setting it up in the Worthing, Adur and Arun areas.

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.

The county council is starting work this week with My Network at Buddy’s Cafe in Worthing to recruit local people with learning disabilities to act as ambassadors to promote the scheme to local businesses and shops as well as potential members.

It is also talking with local police to involve some of the police community support officers.

A group of adults in Worthing who have learning disabilities have told council staff that they think the scheme is a good idea because it will provide them with the confidence to go back into town.

Among these is Annie who said that she does not like shopping in Worthing because she is afraid that a group of boys who had called her names before would be rude to her again.

Another called Robert will not go into Worthing because there are too many people, which makes him nervous, but he said the Safe Place scheme will benefit him.

And Matthew said he sometimes becomes scared at bus stops if people are shouting but having somewhere safe to go will be useful.

Peter Catchpole, Cabinet Member for Health and Adults Services’, said: “I know how important it is for people with a learning difficulty to integrate into the community but how difficult it can be at the same time.

“This fantastic scheme, which is already well supported in Horsham by local businesses, should help in providing reassurance to people with learning difficulties and I hope members of the local community in Worthing, Adur and Arun will provide the same level of backing as well.”

Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, Worthing and Adun’s District Commander, said: “This is a great initiative and will certainly help promote confidence amongst vulnerable people to know that people care, that people will listen and that people will help if they become victims of bullying, abuse or if they simply have concerns and want someone to talk to.”

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 our Safe Places pages on bit.ly/Pf54vS, email Gary Capelin at gary.capelin@westsussex.go.uk, or write to The Safe Places Scheme, The Strawford Centre, Blatchford Close, Horsham RH13 5RG.

Alternatively people can phone Jenny Stead, from Buddys Café, on 01903 202030.