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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Shops, cafes and libraries sign up to protect Cumbria's vulnerable

Vulnerable people across Cumbria can now find a safe haven in a range of shops, cafes and libraries as part of a new initiative.

Safe Place launch photo
Mencap shop team leader Sarah Carr looks at the Safe Place sign

The Safe Place scheme has been set up to support vulnerable people who might be confused, scared, bullied, abused or harassed while they are out and about.

A host of local centres have joined forces with Cumbria Police and jumped on board. They will display the scheme’s logo in their windows, showing people who are in need of help that the location is a safe place.

People who use the scheme carry a special identity card which they show to the staff of participating shops and businesses if they are in need of help.

The scheme was officially launched at the Carlisle Mencap store. Sarah Carr, the shop’s team leader, said:“The shop is quite communal as people often come in for a chat and if something is wrong we try and sort it. Especially adults with learning disabilities, they know it is safe here and that we don’t judge anybody.”

Sheila Gregory, the chief executive officer of Carlisle Mencap, said that lots of people already come in looking for help or support.

“Unofficially the staff have helped a lot of people who come into the shop with a range of problems,” she said. “They know it is a charity shop and that it will be a safe place.

“A lot of people come in here to talk to us when they are frightened, and feel comfortable about it.

“This scheme now means that it is an official part of our duties but we also have a link with the police.

“Some people might be frightened to go up to a police officer because they might feel as though they are wasting their time.

“Also some people are frightened to ask strangers for help these days, so they can come to us and we will report it.”

A police spokesman said: “It is important that all members of our community feel safe when they are out and about and if this is not the case, then the Safe Place initiative provides them with somewhere to go to get help.”

The scheme will launch in west Cumbria tomorrow at the Workington Library Café on Oxford Street.

Cathy Parker from the charity West House, which supports people with learning difficulties, said: “The scheme will give assurance to family members that their loved one has a safe refuge when they are out and about. It is a great example of community policing.”

A list of Safe Place locations can be found at www.cumbria.police.uk.

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