The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Safety scheme officially launched despite criticism

Volunteers will work alongside Greater Manchester Police in an attempt to make the streets of Fallowfield and Withington safer

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A scheme involving student volunteers patrolling the streets of South Manchester in an effort to tackle safety concerns has been launched despite initial proposals receiving criticism.

Training will be given in first aid, advice, safeguarding, well-being and self-defence to safeguard vulnerable people, and volunteers will assist in provide on the spot advice for students, providing information and signposting to useful resources and organisations.

Initially, the scheme was called ‘Night Owls’ and was due to launch in a January 2018 but was delayed to initial criticism, which also resulted in the re-branded as ‘Student Angels’.

A soft launch of the scheme took place in March 2018, with students having been able to sign up since then. The re-branded name bears similarity with Manchester Street Angels, a charity that does similar work in and around the Gay Village, but it’s unclear whether this was deliberate.

Jack Houghton, Community Officer for The University of Manchester Students’ Union said: “This is a collaborative scheme, working with Manchester City Council, GMP and other groups in Manchester.

“Everyone is working together for the benefit of student safety.”

Initial criticism centred around fears that students were effectively substitutes for greater police presence, and that volunteers would be themselves vulnerable to threats, crime and violence.

Jack Joscelyne, a Law student at the University of Manchester Law, had said: “so instead of police patrols we’re going to have vigilante students roaming about stopping crime?

Those involved in the scheme insist that student volunteers will not be expected to be actively involved in tackling criminal activity, rather hope the scheme will tackle student issues quickly and on the ground, calling emergency services for support when appropriate but reducing pressure on them.

This announcement comes amidst national concerns over police funding, cuts and resources.

Superintendent Chris Hill from Greater Manchester Police said: “We’re working really closely with the Council and partners across the city to continue to develop a night time economy that everyone can enjoy safely. This includes the thousands of students that come to our city every year.

“By working with these volunteers we that people will get the most appropriate help as quickly as possible – sometimes this will be the Student Angels, sometimes that will be Greater Manchester Police. We’ll be right there when people need our help.

“I would like to encourage people to volunteer for this fantastic scheme and continue to help make a real difference in their community.”

After a petition titled “Greater Manchester Police & Andy Burnham: help us to make Fallowfield safe for students!” was signed by over 8,000 students and an investigation by The Mancunion suggested that students increasingly rely on Facebook for anecdotal advice about staying safe in South Manchester, the ‘Student Angels’ scheme is part of the Students’ Union’s response to make the streets feel safer for students.

Students interested in getting involved in the scheme can contact Jack Hougton via e-mail (jack.houghton@manchester.ac.uk).