Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiative, a Halifax community group that has helped reclaim no-go areas of their town once blighted by binge drinking, is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.
The successful community group has spent the last six-and-a-half years volunteering alongside the police and local services to help drive out drunken violence and antisocial behaviour and help protect vulnerable people on the streets. Following their work, the town has won two Purple Flag awards, in 2010 and 2011, recognising high standard of safety and cleanliness in the night time economy.
Since its launch almost 100 towns and cities across the UK, and even in Australia, have used Street Angels as a blueprint to introduce their own schemes.
Street Angels now invests around 8,000 volunteering hours into Halifax each year which sees them patrol the town every weekend in distinctive uniforms offering assistance, ranging from helping elderly people onto public transport to flagging early signs of street violence or disorder to the police and CCTV operators.
Congratulating founder Paul Blakey MBE on the award, the Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Street Angels shows what can be achieved when communities come together and work hand in hand with their local services to make their towns, estates and streets safer places.
Paul and his army of volunteers embody the principals of Big Society, with people standing up and taking an active role in building the type of community they want to live in - one that looks out for the vulnerable and says no to the drunken, loutish, criminal behaviour that can too often blight communities.
I’m delighted this approach has been used to tackle the very same issues in other towns and cities, as far away as Australia. It really shows just how important and universal the Big Society message is.
Accepting the award, Paul Blakey MBE, said:
To be awarded the Big Society Award is an amazing accolade for the thousands of volunteers who invest time and skills into over one hundred local areas across the UK week in and week out.
The fact that in many of these towns and cities violent crime and sexual assaults have reduced significantly and that the night-time economy has become a better place that can be enjoyed by all is proof that volunteering works and can have a massive positive impact.
As our local projects, motivated by their Christian faith, partner with statutory bodies and others who care about the wider community, we become Big Society in action!
From a local project meeting needs in Halifax to one that is now at work across the UK and beyond, Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiatives is thrilled to accept the Big Society Award and thank the Prime Minister for this recognition.
Chief Superintendent Chris Hardern, for Calderdale Police, said:
Since 2005, Street Angels have been able to provide a reassuring presence in our community. They are all volunteers who give up their time on Saturday nights to work in partnership with police to ensure Halifax town centre is a safe place to visit and work.
By having them working alongside us in helping vulnerable people, including young people who have become detached from their friends after having a little too much drink, means my officers are free to tackle other incidents that require police officers.
This successful partnership work, alongside Calderdale Council, has led to Halifax town centre being awarded a Purple Flag status for a second year running in recognition of having a safe and thriving night-time economy.
This policing initiative has shown what can be achieved when we all work together and this award is fitting recognition of that success.
Since Street Angels was set up in Halifax in 2005:
- More than 8,000 hours a year is now invested on Saturday, and other key nights, by thousands of volunteers;
- volunteers have removed thousands of glasses and bottles from the streets, making for a safer, cleaner environment;
- the town has been awarded Purple Flag status recognising high levels of safety and cleanliness for two years running;
- many vulnerable people have been helped after volunteers have referred them onto other services;
- and awareness of civic pride and the dangers of binge drinking have been raised through presentations at local schools and colleges.