New get home safe campaign protects women and girls from harassment

Published: 24 March 2022

Safe space, women, safety, Newcastle town centre, Lancaster Building, Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme BID.
The safe space for women in Lancaster Building, Newcastle (opposite Cafe Nero).

Visitors can get help, support and free safety aids at a "Women's Safe Space" at Lancaster Building, Newcastle, on Friday and Saturday nights, from 5.30pm to midnight, until 16 April.

A new zero-tolerance campaign is launching in Newcastle-under-Lyme to help eliminate the risks of harassment to female residents, shoppers and visitors at night.

The Council is rolling out a package of initiatives aimed at making women and girls feel safer in public spaces thanks to the distribution of Home Office funding, awarded to the Staffordshire Commissioner, following a successful bid to the Safety of Women at Night Fund.

It starts on Friday, 25 March with the unveiling of a “Women’s Safe Space” in Newcastle town centre. Located in a shop unit at Lancaster Building by the Guildhall, it’s open from 5.30pm until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights until 16 April. The safe space, set up and managed by Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District and the Council which is donating the use of the unit for free, is being staffed by police officers, support workers, security partners and volunteers who are able to provide assistance, offer a safe haven and signpost to relevant services.

Staff will ensure that visitors can contact someone if they wish to get home safely or just give them time to collect their thoughts. If the matter is more serious or a crime has been committed, they will be supported to contact the police. The hub is also providing free safety aids for women who may find themselves in a vulnerable situation.

The “Get Home Safe” campaign comes a year after the murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens which sparked widespread concern about violence against women in the UK.

Following the tragic murders of Sarah, Sabina Nessa and other female victims, the debate around how police and other services tackle crimes in which women and girls are disproportionately affected – such as stalking, harassment, sexual violence and domestic abuse – has featured prominently in the national conversation.

Further projects supported by the funding include:

  • Performance and discussion-based drama workshops for college and high school students, provided by highly respected and innovative theatre in education company Loudmouth Education and Training, aimed at raising awareness of unacceptable behaviour towards women and girls. 
  • A training programme from Glow educating older teenagers and young adults to challenge inappropriate behaviours.
  • The introduction of a Women’s Safety Charter from the Staffordshire Commissioner.
  • An update of the night time economy exclusion policy to include measures against spiking and sexual harassment. 

Meanwhile, mandatory safeguarding training for all taxi drivers operating in the borough, which is provided at regular intervals, is being enhanced and updated by the Council to include more information on potential vulnerabilities of women at night.

Catherine Fox, the Council’s Vulnerability Officer, said: “The tragic death of Sarah Everard last year, and other women since then, has pushed into national focus the issue of women and girls feeling and being safe in public places.

“The Council always works pro-actively and creatively with multi-agency partners to tackle violence against women and girls in Newcastle-under-Lyme, including providing help and support to those in abusive relationships, but this funding will allow us to do even more good work focused on making sure that they have a safe time while enjoying themselves.

“We want to do everything we can to reassure women and girls that they can go out in the town centre without worrying or looking over their shoulder. This is a brilliant campaign that will not only help them now, but also in the future as it looks to educate young men about unacceptable behaviour.”

As part of the wider Safer Spaces initiative in Newcastle town centre, there is enhanced CCTV and street lighting as well as marked areas at key locations for taxi pick-ups. 

Alex Taylor, Newcastle BID Manager, said: “The BID is eager to support the Safety of Women at Night campaign as part of our objectives to make Newcastle a safe place to work, live, learn and spend time. We work closely with our night time economy and businesses who are serious about the safety and well-being of both their staff and those enjoying our town centre to socialise and shop. Our message is that women have a right to feel welcome and safe within the town at night, and we invite the people of Newcastle to join our zero-tolerance approach to the harassment of women.

“Our campaign reiterates the Home Office messaging that says ‘Enough’ to violence against women and girls as their safety isn’t just the responsibility of women, it is everyone’s. We have had a lot of support with launching and implementing the safe space through discussions with local businesses who want to be involved in promoting it and furthermore the wider campaign message.

“Women’s safety is an issue that I feel extremely passionate about, both personally and professionally, and as such we’re eager to be included in the larger initiative designed to reach and educate men and women of all ages in challenging inappropriate behaviour.”

Sergeant Kramer Caldwell, from Newcastle Neighbourhood Policing unit, added: “Officers are committed to continually improving the safety of both businesses and visitors to our town centre. This focus includes adopting a creative, partnership problem solving approach and we are pleased to be part of #GetHomeSafe.

“Police officers and Police Community Support Officers regularly patrol our town centre during the busiest times on Friday and Saturday evenings and will be actively involved in supporting this valuable incentive to ensure Newcastle-under-Lyme remains a safe and enjoyable place to work, reside and visit.”