Safe Spaces in the UK’s night-time economy are creating a better visitor environment by reducing vulnerability and reducing pressure on local accident and emergency (A&E) departments and police resources, according to a new report by MAKE Associates.

The research, commissioned by the Portman Group, found that while the vast majority of people enjoy their nights out, a small fraction (less than 1%) risk becoming vulnerable or causing anti-social behaviour through alcohol misuse. Safe Spaces play a vital role in supporting these individuals by relieving pressure on police, ambulance and A&E services.

MAKE estimates that investment in Safe Spaces can help offset public sector costs by as much as £9.31 for every £1 spent. However, the report makes clear that Safe Spaces have yet to reach their full potential, concluding that as many as 150+ schemes could be rolled out nationwide. It is estimated that a network on this scale could return over £100m annually to the NHS to be redeployed to other services.

Welcoming the report, Portman Group Chief Executive, John Timothy said:

“I want this report to mark the beginning of a national conversation about Safe Spaces. It demonstrates the benefit Safe Spaces are already having, whilst shining a light on the untapped potential for rolling out these schemes more widely. The vast majority of us drink responsibly and enjoy the great range of hospitality and entertainment our night life has to offer.

“This sector is worth around £66 billion a year to the economy and supports 1.3 million jobs, but it remains the case that a small minority of people are drinking too much and causing problems to the communities around them. This report shows that by working in partnership with other stakeholders, we can tackle problems where they occur without impacting responsible drinkers while also relieving pressure on the public purse. I want to encourage anyone interested in setting up a Safe Space to get in touch with the Portman Group and use our new toolkit to start a conversation in your town.”

Commenting on the research, MAKE Associates founder, Ali Turnham said:

“It is clear that these important schemes are at the cutting edge of managing the NTE. They help reduce hospital admissions, ambulance call outs and cut police officer time spent with the vulnerable, allowing them to focus on what they do best. There are also clear benefits to residents, street pastors and angels, town centre businesses and, most of all, to the vulnerable individuals who are helped every week by the dedicated and highly trained Safe Space staff we interviewed.

“The toolkit, which accompanies the report, will help new Safe Spaces set up their schemes more quickly and avoid pitfalls. Having identified well over 150 towns and cities that could still benefit from a scheme, the Safe Space ‘movement’ has huge potential to grow, to aid those in need, reduce pressure on the NHS, prevent crime and to create safer and more attractive towns and cities across the UK.”

The report features in-depth case studies of four areas: Hereford, Exeter, Chelmsford and Clapham. MAKE and the Portman Group have also published an accompanying toolkit which is available to stakeholders interested in setting up their own scheme.

MAKE found 45 schemes are in operation in the UK, typically helping between four and 20 people during a weekend night out.  26 of the 45 schemes operate from vehicles such as single deck buses and 19 are based in buildings. Some schemes operate from within licensed premises such as clubs where safe havens are set up for club goers.