Efforts to ensure a safe night out in Wigan will continue thanks to extra funding
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The Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) scheme was launched after Wigan Council received £273,000 from a £5m pot from the Home Office to be spent on initiatives to combat violence against women and girls across England and Wales.
It followed several high-profile attacks on women across the country, including the murder of Sarah Everard by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens.
The council used the money to provide a range of interventions, including safety marshals in Wigan, Atherton and Leigh town centres, free training for bars and clubs, and 34 “safe places” which offer help to anyone who is anxious, scared or at risk.
There are currently more than 80 pubs and bars in the borough signed up to the scheme.
These initiatives are now being extended to the end of March 2023, thanks to additional funding from the Place and Community Partnership Board.
Highly visible safety marshals will continue patrolling popular night spots every weekend and the council’s Safe Places scheme will continue to expand.
Its launch at the end of 2021 was coupled with a major marketing campaign aimed at boosting public awareness of safety on nights out, changing the attitudes of men and boys and providing advice on how to report unacceptable behaviour.
Coun Kevin Anderson said: “I am absolutely thrilled to see this scheme continue into 2023. Keeping our residents safe from harm is our highest priority and the importance of the work taking place as part of the Safety of Women at Night scheme cannot be overstated.
“Here in Wigan borough we are absolutely committed to bringing about real change that will make women and girls feel safer on the streets. This work will be led by our Place and Community Safety Partnership and I hope to see many more local businesses getting involved and joining the many safe places we have already established.”
Coun Dane Anderton said: "No-one should feel they are in danger or at risk by simply wanting to enjoy the fantastic venues and entertainment that our borough has to offer.
“The presence of our safety marshal team has made a big difference to safety in our popular night-spots and the training we are offering venues is really helping to ensure that staff are able to handle concerns raised by their customers.
“Alongside this work we are already working closely with the fantastic pub watch groups in Wigan and Leigh, which are doing a lot to improve safety for everyone.”
Following the successful introduction of Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative (SAVI) in February, venues continue to demonstrate their commitment to safety by taking part in the accreditation process.
It has been developed at the request of the Home Office by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (Police CPI), a not-for-profit police organisation which works alongside the police service throughout the UK to deter and reduce crime.
Wigan Council has also been allocating the funding to train venue managers and staff to increase their skills, knowledge and confidence to identify vulnerable customers and make interventions to keep them safe, with campaigns such as Ask for Angela, which encourages customers to use the name as a code word to inform a member of staff that they need help.
Michael Pagett, owner of Reef Bar, on King Street, Wigan, said: “The accreditation aids us in conveying the message to customers that we are a safe place to visit and that Wigan town centre as a whole is a safe and friendly environment.”
Cafe Stella, a popular bar in Leigh town centre, is another venue to successfully complete the accreditation.
Owner Zoe Grundy said: “We at Cafe Stella are committed to making a safer environment for our customers and staff, and we are continually learning and bettering ourselves as long-standing licensees in the town centre.
“Having the accreditation will hopefully highlight that my venue, along with the others that have come together to take part, care about everyone’s safety and that we are trying to help make the local community a safer place.
"In my eyes, we have a responsibility to the people that visit our venue and the town’s nightlife to make it the safest possible environment it can be.”
All of the venues under the Wigan Pubs group – Little Fifteen, The Raven, Indiependence, Harry’s Bar, The Royal Oak, Fifteen Swinley, Fifteen Pemberton and Fifteen Standish – have completed the self-assessment and achieved five-star ratings.
As well as providing safer and more secure venues, it also seeks to reduce the demand on the emergency services and is supported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Project Servator, a police anti-terrorism initiative.
Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Stephen Watson said: “I am very pleased to see the establishment of the Wigan Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative, as part of Home Office funding to protect and safeguard women and girls."
Licensing SAVI business manager Mark Morgan said: “It has been excellent working with the local police and council licensing teams in Wigan, and especially those who run the licensed premises, to support them in being as safe as possible for all.
"We’ve had very positive feedback and it’s great that those managing and working in venues are embracing advice to maximise the safety of women in line with SWaN funding from the Home Office.
“It’s really pleasing to see the community spirit locally across Wigan, Standish, Leigh, and the surrounding areas, where there is a clear drive to be as safe an area as possible. Well done to those accredited so far and we will continue to work hard supporting you.”