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Guest blog: Drinkaware venue schemes and campaigns for safer, more positive student nights out

Grabbing, groping, offensive comments, taking photos without permission: unfortunately these are all behaviours that 18 – 24 year olds told Drinkaware are common place – even expected – on nights out in clubs and bars.

Over the last three years, Drinkaware have been working to address this via advertising campaigns which challenge drunken sexual harassment, and by helping venues integrate customer welfare into their operating structure via the Drinkaware Crew scheme.

Supporting student welfare with Drinkaware Crew

Drinkaware Crew are trained staff working in clubs and venues to support the welfare and wellbeing of young adults on nights out. Working in pairs, they mingle with customers to promote a positive social atmosphere and help people who may be vulnerable as a result of alcohol consumption. This can include supporting people who have been harassed, helping lone customers to get taxis at the end of the night, and escalating serious issues to venue security and first aid.

Now active in 14 internal and affiliated Students' Union venues across the UK, educational and student bodies have been key partners in the growth of Drinkaware Crew, leading the way in customer care in the evening and night time economy.

Plymouth SU were the first student body to take up the scheme as a part of a pilot project in late 2015 and, based on its successes, are preparing for their fourth academic year with Drinkaware Crew supporting students on the busiest nights.

A regional project funded by South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner has seen five Students' Unions across South Wales, including Cardiff and Swansea SUs, operate Drinkaware Crew since September 2016. Introduced as part of region-wide initiative to improve student safety, Crew teams have supported almost 1,000 students since they were introduced.

On the back of successes in Plymouth and South Wales, Drinkaware Crew teams have also been introduced in Students' Unions across Leicestershire, Nottingham, Coventry and Derby.

You can hear our partners in South Wales and other areas talk about the benefits of having Drinkaware Crew in a venue in the following video:

Advertising messages to challenge drunken sexual harassment

Drinkaware has also been challenging drunken sexual harassment among young adults on nights out via advertising campaigns.

The ‘Wouldn’t Shouldn’t’ campaign, which is aimed at both perpetrators and those on the receiving end of harassment, targeted students and non-students in the North West of England through cinema, social and digital media, and advertising in bars and clubs.

Over the duration of the campaign, the number of people agreeing with the statement ‘if it’s groping when sober, it’s groping when drunk’ increased from 77% to 85%. The number of people discussing the issue of sexual harassment in clubs increased from 26% to 37%; and those agreeing that inappropriate behaviours can be excused when drunk decreased from 22% to 11%.

To help young people take action on a night out, the final year of the campaign saw a new strand of messaging targeting bystanders; ‘Ok To Ask’ highlighted different kinds of drunken harassment and encouraged people to step in if they saw these behaviours in bars and clubs. It also provided supportive advice to ensure interventions were done safely.

Campaign research showed that ‘Ok To Ask’ was recognised by 54% of the target audience; 82% of those who’d seen it felt they wanted to intervene after seeing it; and 30% of people had stepped in to help when they witnessed an incident (against only 17% of those who hadn’t seen the campaign).

Campaign messaging has also been delivered to students in Drinkaware Crew areas; in South Wales, two years of Welcome Week activity saw ‘Wouldn’t Shouldn’t’ and ‘Ok To Ask’ messages reach 77% of 18 to 24 year olds across the region, and generated over 1 million engagements. Drinkaware Crew venues in Cardiff and Swansea also took an active role in supporting the campaign.


Drinkaware are keen to engage with universities and Students’ Unions to further the expansion of the Drinkaware Crew programme and amplify the campaigns. If you are interested in getting involved and would like to discuss further, please get in touch, here.

The Drunken Nights Out report is also available to read, here.


Indicator 3.2 of the Student Night Out Instrument in the ProtectED Code of Practice requires member universities to ensure that venue staff receive training to spot and help vulnerable adults, and challenge physical or sexual harassment. Drinkaware initiatives are cited as an example of good practice.

The views and opinions expressed by authors of Guest Blog posts and by those providing comments do not necessarily reflect those of ProtectED. Information on products or services is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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