A scheme which will involve student volunteers being trained in first aid, wellbeing, and self-defence to safeguard vulnerable people is to be launched before the end of academic year.
Communities Officer Jack Houghton told The Mancunion that “the scheme will be launched this semester and that progress is moving forward.”
Houghton initially told The Mancunion that the ‘Night Owl’ scheme would be launched in early 2018, following consultations with students on the initial proposals in November and December of 2017.
Previously, he said: “we will… be setting up an office to support students whilst on a night out. For example, to track volunteer locations and to maintain contact with police and security services during patrols.
“Between now and December I will be putting on consultation sessions with students so as to gain an idea of what people want the scheme to look like and whether they agree with the Students’ Union’s plan.”
Houghton did not comment on whether any consultation sessions with students had actually taken place since making that initial statement.
The scheme initially faced strong criticism from students regarding its efficiency and how it would safeguard the volunteers, with one student describing the proposals as “almost offensive to anyone that’s been assaulted, threatened, stabbed or mugged.”
The main criticism from students was that student volunteers were being used as a substitute for improved police presence.
Responding to this criticism, Jack said: “you are correct that increasing police numbers would help deal with the problem and is why Manchester Students’ Union is determined to fight for an increased police presence in student areas. However, it is important to remember that police numbers are at historically low levels.”
In late 2017, a petition titled ‘Greater Manchester Police & Andy Burnham: help us to make Fallowfield safe for students!’ received almost 10,000 signatories.
An investigation by The Mancunion into safety concerns of students suggested an increasing reliance on Facebook for anecdotal advice about staying safety information.
The volunteer ‘Night Owl’ scheme is part of the Students’ Union’s response to concerns from students about safety amidst continued reports of burglaries, attacks and assaults in South Manchester, particularly in and around Fallowfield.
Other Students’ Union student safety initiatives include increasing the number of street lights in Fallowfield, Withington, Rusholme and other areas, and working to ensure all new street lights are LED to maximise their brightness.
The Students’ Union also have a scheme with Street Cars allowing students to give a Street Cars driver their student I.D. if they have no money so they can still get a safe taxi home rather than have to walk, and their ID card can then be collected from the Students’ Union reception the next day.
The ‘Night Owl’ scheme is being organised in conjunction with other parties and institutions across Greater Manchester, and Jack has said more information on the scheme will be disseminated when all the involved parties are ready for its launch.