Q & A: Nightsafe on a return to normal operations


Hannah Carley talks to NightSafe about their work supporting students against the backdrop of York’s returning nightlife scene.

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Image by YUSU Nightsafe

By Hannah Carley

For our readers that may not be aware, what is Nightsafe?

Nightsafe is a student-led volunteering project ran at the University of york, providing immediate support to vulnerable students out clubbing on university club nights in York’s city centre
Why was Night-safe started?

It was started partly in response to an uptake in drown-ings in the centre of york; quite a few students over the years had unfortunately drowned. It was mainly in response to these drowning incidents, but also just to provide a bit of support and to help make students feel a bit safer on nights out.

On a typical night, what kind of support does Nightsafe provide to those students that need it?

All of our volunteers are trained in first aid, river safety and mental health awareness so we are able to provide a broad spectrum of help. Sometimes this is first aid assistance, things like scraped knees or maybe you've fallen over and hit your head, but also if someone has had a bit too much to drink, we all carry sick bags and water bottles that we can provide to people. Generally, we are there just making sure that everyone can get home, so calling taxis and making sure that students are with their friends, they’re safe and they can get home all right.

What would be your advice for students going on a night out in town?

In terms of safety, I would say make sure that you are taking a phone out with you that has a fair bit of charge just in case you get separated from your friends and end up on your own. Try not to wander off - I know sometimes you can, but it is best to avoid it. However, if you do, make sure your friends know where you are at least. See if any of them want to come with you if you want to go home early. Try not to accept drinks from strangers or enter into other scenarios like that as well. And definitely don’t walk by the river; if you have to walk home from town, make sure you’re not walking home alone and make sure you’re not walking by the river.
If students need support on a night out in town how can they find you?

We usually tend to hang around outside the club where the student night is being held that particular evening. If you can’t find us though you can always talk to the door staff, because we actually have a radio that connects to them, so they can radioNightsafe and ask us “can you please come outside of Salvos?” which means that we can then come and help you out.

This term saw Nightsafe return-ing to the city centre regularly after a significant break in the York nightlife scene as a result of the Covid - 19 pandemic. How has it been being back?

It has been fun! Nightsafe was unfortunately limited last year, though we tried our best. We did run a few on-campus shifts and we were able to run a handful of shifts in town. We also started up a new scheme called Door Natters to provide a listening ear to and have a chat with locals who might be feeling a bit lonely or may not have had much family that could visit them. But being back doing what we're supposed to do, what we’re trained to do, has been a lot better.

The training and supplies that are critical to your work do come at a cost, so how is Nightsafe funded?

Nightsafe is funded primarily through grants from the University of York and the Student Union. We are also able to apply for grants from the North Yorkshire Police. However, this is periodical and not one of our annual sources of funding.

As you have mentioned, Nightsafe has a well-established relationship with both North Yorkshire Police and Doorsafe. How else does this help support you?

It helps support us mainly becauseDoorsafe are aware of us. I think it’s a two-way relationship, so if they have to take someone out of the club because they are too drunk, they can radio us, and likewise if someone needs help but they can’t find us they can ask the door staff who can get in contact with us. It is also useful having a relationship with Morth Yorkshire Police. This was particularly the case last year because with the situation with Covid -19 our relationship became closerand we were able to help out the police slightlyif there were a few incidences where peoplewere a bit drunk in town. Rather than taking up police time, they could call us and we could make sure they were alright, call them taxis, and make sure that they were able to get home fine.

How can any students that are interested in Nightsafe potentially get involved?

We run recruitment cycles starting around the end of term 2, so around Eastertime. We’ll advertise on our social media that we are giving out shadow shifts - this is basically where you can come along on a shift with us in town and you can get a feel of whether it might be something you want to get involved in. Then we open our online application, which is just a short form saying why you want to join Nightsafe and asking what year you are due to graduate. That is usually run through the Easter holiday period and if you are successful at that stage you’ll then have an interview. If you are also successful at the interview you will then be trained at the beginning of the next academic year, in the week before Freshers Week. After that, you’ll be ready to go for the next year as a volunteer.