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Award presented by High Sheriff for work to enhance safety and wellbeing

The innovative work of a team from across the University of Chester to enhance students’ safety and wellbeing has been recognised with an award from the High Sheriff of Cheshire.

Students and staff were presented with the award by the High Sheriff, Jeannie France-Hayhurst, on Wednesday March 15, to acknowledge their part in a range of initiatives to highlight and tackle all forms of harassment and enhance safety.

At an event at the University’s Exton Park site, she gave the award to members of its Safer Streets Team and wider Unacceptable Behaviours Group (UBG). Set up in 2016, the Group includes students, University leaders, and staff from areas including Student Services. The Group discusses relevant topics that have a negative impact on students and members collaborate, and work with partners, to address these issues. It aims to raise awareness of, prevent and support students affected by unacceptable behaviours, which include harassment and abuse.

With funding received through the national Safer Streets initiative in autumn 2021, and following a survey of students, a number of new initiatives were put in place to build on existing support to help students feel and be as safe as possible, including:

  • A powerfulawareness-raising Reflect and Respect campaign focusing on the prevention of sexual violence by sharing the proactive message that violence against women and girls will not be tolerated, identifying harmful behaviours and encouraging cultural change.
  • A pilot of a free personal safety app which enables students to set off an alert, set a meeting timer and a start and end point for journeys.
  • New lighting and CCTV installed across Chester sites.
  • Partnering with organisations in Chester, Warrington and Northwich (for students at Reaseheath College and University Centre Reaseheath), to provide students with Safe Spaces should they ever feel they are in danger. 
  • A new Sexual Violence Liaison Officer (SVLO) Service supporting students who have experienced sexual violence or harassment. More than 20 staff members are receiving accredited SVLO training, delivered by LimeCulture, the UK’s leading sexual violence specialist support and safeguarding training organisation. 
  • A new reporting tool for students to report an incident.
  • Consent and healthy relationship workshops, with 10 staff members now trained to deliver these by LimeCulture.
  • First Responder training to key staff on how to handle a disclosure.
  • A Safer Taxi scheme, partnering with local taxi firms so students can get home if they feel unsafe.  

Mrs France-Hayhurst said:

“The Group’s work has been comprehensive and innovative and the range of initiatives that members have developed has made a real difference to their fellow students. Their contributions deserve recognition and I was delighted to present an award at the University commending their efforts and achievements.”

Dr Helen Galbraith, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) at the University of Chester and Chair of the UBG said:

“The achievements of the Unacceptable Behaviours Group, including the Safer Streets project and our wider work to tackle sexual violence and all forms of harassment, are a tribute to the collective contributions of a dedicated, hard-working team of academic and professional staff and students, working closely with valued external partners. I am so proud that the work of the Group is being recognised by the High Sheriff of Cheshire.”

The national Safer Streets funding bid was made to the Home Office by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, supported by Cheshire Constabulary. Mr Dwyer attended yesterday’s event and added: “Tackling sexual violence is of paramount importance for me and the Constabulary, so I’m proud to have secured the Safer Streets funding and it’s fantastic to see these initiatives in action. I know this issue is at the forefront of many young people’s minds, especially if they have been victims themselves.

“It’s vital that people have the confidence to come forward and that means working to change attitudes in wider society, in addition to reassuring people about the practical support they will receive. These measures and the wider work of the Safer Streets Team and Unacceptable Behaviours Group are undoubtedly achieving this in Chester.”

Student Emily Davies said:

“I have been a member of the Group since my undergraduate studies and now as a postgraduate at Chester. It has been an extremely rewarding experience to shape these safety and wellbeing initiatives – working with partners across the community, seeing them implemented, their impact, and to receive this award alongside student and staff members. It is appreciated and valued as we continue our work together.

“The opportunity to work alongside such an influential group as a student has been invaluable to me, and gaining recognition from the High Sheriff Award is the motivation to keep working together to tackle unacceptable behaviours.”

The funding was from one of two successful bids to the Government’s Safer Streets Fund, with the other focusing on Warrington town centre and providing a training package of guardianship programmes for people involved in the night-time economy, increased CCTV and street lighting, a Safer Taxi Scheme to create a network of accredited drivers, and an educational behavioural change programme in secondary schools and colleges.

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