Vulnerability Series: 1. Safe Spaces

8 Jan 2018

With vulnerability such a hot topic at the moment (and rightly so), we thought we would look at the various management tools and projects out there to help you manage vulnerability in the evening and night-time economy.

At the end of December, Jo spoke on BBC Five Live, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC West Midlands and BBC Kent (yes, all in one day!) about Safe Spaces and the services they provide. Here, in the first of our series of blogs about vulnerability projects, we explore Safe Spaces as a means of providing support to vulnerable people in towns and cities centres at night.

What are Safe Spaces and who is involved in their delivery?

These are partnership schemes often run by a combination of volunteers, paid staff, St John’s Ambulance, paramedics and hospitals, and are based in buses, cabins, trailers, buildings or hospitals. The specific partners involved in managing and staffing a safe space is driven by local need. Rather than Safe Spaces, some areas call them SOS buses, Alcohol Treatment Centres or Welfare Units.

They provide a place of safety for those who might need it, medical assessment, basic medical treatment, first aid, supervised recovery. Most see 15 to 20 people per night. These centres treat night-time economy users that have been injured, are intoxicated (with alcohol or illegal drugs) and/or are vulnerable for other reasons. They provide advice to those who are lost or can’t get themselves home or have a need for pastoral care. Some also offer services for rough sleepers.

A small number of schemes signpost their users to follow-on services, such as alcohol, drugs and mental health interventions. Some Safe Spaces also act as a base for partners who are managing the local night-time economy.

What impact do they have?

A 2017 study by Make Associates for the Local Alcohol Partnerships Group (LAPG), supported by The Portman Group, titled “A Study of ‘Safe Spaces’ in the UK Night-time Economy” found that there are 45 Safe Spaces in the UK. Most of these operate on Friday and/or Saturday nights or when there is a busy midweek student night.

Make Associates reported Safe Spaces can help offset public sector costs by as much as £9.31 for every £1 spent on the service. A Safe Space can allow ambulance and A&E services to redeploy £50k – £1m of resources each year depending on the size and location. Safe Spaces cost between £5k and £150k a year to operate. Make Associates estimated that a UK network of 150 safe spaces could return over £100m to the NHS each year.

Make Associates and the Portman Group have identified that 150 locations within the UK could benefit from a Safe Space, and if the statistics above are accurate, and speaking from personal experience, we certainly understand and agree with this recommendation.

Having set up several Safe Spaces and run one in Nottingham for seven years, we have found that there are some key learnings that need to be considered. To be successful, Safe Spaces need to be centrally funded by a partnership, as they are hard to find funding for. If volunteers are used to provide care and first aid they need good supervision, training and ongoing support and encouragement. During quiet times volunteers may become disillusioned; there are some nights, particularly Friday nights in January and February when no one needs the service. It might be more effective to only open Safe Spaces during busy times, which needs careful planning.

We would also recommend that, in order to ensure the best value for money and their ongoing relevance and effectiveness, the Safe Spaces themselves are mobile. This will ensure that, should the epicentre of the ENTE move within a town or city, the Safe Space can move with it. This also allows local areas to set up the Safe Space in other locations when needed, for example for festivals or during Fresher’s Week.

If you are considering setting up a Safe Space and would like some support, please get in touch with us on

Written by the Night Time Economy Team ©2018 | Share this article link
Category: Night Time Safety
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