Reading opens permanent new safe hub for residents

Oct 6, 2023 | Members e-Bulletin, News, Stakeholder eBulletin

Reading Council and its partners, including South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS), officially opened Reading Safe Space, the home of First Stop and Street Pastors, on Thursday, 5 October. This initiative allows residents and visitors to access medical assistance and on the spot help from a permanent place in the town centre.

Reading Safe Space is located at St Mary’s Church House on Chain Street. First Stop provides a vital service to those enjoying the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights, administering first aid supported by paramedics from SCAS. It allows those in need of medical help to gain immediate access to the help they need through on the spot assessment and treatment. This additionally takes the pressure off hard-pressed A&E departments by reducing the number of visits required to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Reading’s Street Pastors are a team volunteers who patrol the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights to care for, listen to and help people who are out for the evening.

In addition to housing these services, Reading Safe Space will deliver a range of community safety related services including crime prevention advice and training, and resources and support for victims of crime. The space will be multi-functional, so it can be used for both night-time safety services and day-time training and events.

The First Stop Service was previously run on a temporary basis from Minster Church, and before that from a bus, so a permanent home provides many advantages. The new building is self-contained and provides a much bigger space, will be better equipped, and allows the council to deliver other safety services there alongside partners.

Penny Meadley, specialist practice manager at SCAS, said: “We are delighted to be moving with First Stop into our new home where we will have the space and facilities to help, see and treat any patients who need our help on a Friday or Saturday night. As well as relieving pressure on the local A&E staff, First Stop also helps to reduce demand on our emergency responders in our control rooms and on the road, as patients in the local area can be directed to, or brought in, to see the team and get the help they need.”

Karen Rowland, lead councillor for environmental services and community safety, said: “Reading Safe Space gives a vital, permanent home to two crucial town centre services in First Stop and the Street Pastors, whose work is so greatly valued. We’re proud that this partnership approach is able to both ensure residents and visitors to Reading can feel safe and also remove pressure from the NHS, saving trips to A&E by treating those in need of help on the spot.”

Sally Leonard, Reading street pastor co-ordinator, said: “First Stop and Street Pastors are excited to have a permanent home of our own where we will continue to provide vital services to the people of Reading, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night.”

The new facility has been made possible by working with the Police Crime Commissioner’s Officer (OPCC) and other partners, and funded by some of the £429,000 Safer Streets funding received from the Home Office last year to reduce crime and improve safety in the town centre.