This September, the University of Gloucestershire's Student Community Patrol (SCP) will begin their sixth year of partnership working with Gloucestershire Constabulary, looking after vulnerable students and members of the wider community on a night out. The scheme was started by Linda Farrall (Membership Services Manager at the Students' Union) and a local licencing officer — the main point-of-contact for police regarding licensed premises. This year, funding for the SCP comes from Cheltenham's Late Night Levy scheme whereby businesses that are licensed to sell alcohol after midnight pay a charge that helps support the policing of the city's night-time economy.
The SCP scheme is currently recruiting new volunteers, with just a few spaces left, before training begins in September. All volunteers must pass the provided Level 2 Security Industry Authority training (which enables them to apply for door supervisor roles), in addition to first aid training and police briefings on how the patrols are run, and managing challenging situations and individuals. Alongside the minimum level of training volunteers receive, they are also given the option of attending more specialised, one-off lectures and events throughout the year to top up their skills. This includes training in recognising domestic abuse or participating in the police 'ride along' scheme which lets students shadow a police officer for a shift; this gives volunteers some firsthand experience observing how trained officers handle a variety of circumstances. Volunteer and criminology student Phoebe Holder explains: "Volunteering in this role means that I get a real taster for what it’s like to be in the police — you never know what to expect."
Each academic year, students and police jointly patrol Cheltenham's streets every Monday night. There are also increased patrols during Freshers' Week when many students are negotiating unfamiliar surroundings and living away from home for the first time. The availability of SCP support is promoted to students through the Students' Union and the University's social media channels, and circulated widely on their staff and student news sites, offering peace of mind to students that their peers are on hand to support them, if needed.
The typical tasks that SCP volunteers are involved in include administering first aid, calling taxis for vulnerable students and walking them to their vehicle, signposting individuals in need of help to the correct support services, giving directions to those who are lost, and handing out flip flops, all the while staying in constant contact with venue door staff and the police via the 'Night Safe' radio network. The city's CCTV network is used to direct volunteers to locations where their help may be needed. Both students and the general public benefit from the scheme, with SCP volunteers often assisting intoxicated older members of the community. Tom Newman, Chief Executive of the University of Gloucestershire’s Students’ Union, describes how volunteers will "support anyone who is in difficulty, whether student or non-student. Cheltenham is a safe town and this scheme is another way in which we can help students enjoy themselves, while staying safe.”
Over the next academic year, SCP co-founder Linda hopes to extend the training given to student volunteers to include a session with Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service and Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre who can offer free, confidential advice to those affected by rape or sexual abuse, regarding their options and rights. These issues are of increasing concern among the UK student population and so enabling volunteers to also offer peer support in this way will crucially help foster a supportive learning environment and encourage those affected