Southend Council to consider bringing back SOS bus in 2020

Mick Ferris
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A voluntary first aid response service could soon be returning to the streets of Southend after the council confirmed that it may begin funding the service again early next year.

The voluntary SOS Bus operated across the borough providing help and support to people on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The service’s initial funder YMCA chose to cut the service in 2017 but earlier this year the council gave fresh hope that the service could be saved when it allocated a small grant to the YMCA so it could deliver assistance over the summer.

Despite the bus helping 49 people during that period, the council chose to withdraw funding following a review that showed significantly fewer people going into the town centre each night.

But at a full council meeting on Thursday night, Councillor Trevor Harp, who is responsible for Health and Adult Social Care, said a review is being planned and the council will decide at the beginning of the year what can “sustainably” be put in place.

He spoke about the bus after Leigh Town Councillor and SOS bus trial team leader, Alan Hart, urged councillors to rethink the funding cut, insisting that “lower footfall has no bearing on the potential number of casualties”

Speaking of the 13 years the bus has operated, Mr Hart continued: “The question is where would these casualties have gone without this service? The girl with the restraining order who ex-partner turns up? The man who was assaulted and bleeding? The tipsy girl who lost her friends and was alone? The accident we stabilised before even the paramedics could arrive? The cases we took to hospital without the need for an ambulance? The unhappy souls kicking off in the street that would have attracted police response?

“The SOS bus has covered all of these and thousands more. During the period of provision millions have been save for both police and hospitals through our efforts.”

Mr Harp said: “Following wider engagement with partners throughout the summer of 2019, including the BID, and having received numerous feedback about the positive contribution that the volunteers of the SOS Bus have made and this being held in high regard by all parties, the council will work with the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Board to undertake an intensive discovery design phase, to explore what options can be developed for due consideration.

“There is good evidence that the SOS Bus type arrangement can have a vital part to play in our night-time economy and a plethora of local support in perception around community safety.”

He added there is an opportunity for the service to support events, bank holidays and preparing for summer and winter. He added the review will take place in “early 2020”.


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