An intensive action plan from Doncaster Council, South Yorkshire Police, St Leger Homes and health partners is making a positive impression in the town centre, tackling issues of homelessness, addiction, anti-social behaviour, crime, aggressive begging and drug dealing. Early results show that the initiative is working well.
Amid actions set out in a robust action plan to improve people’s experience of the town centre, additional police officers were funded by Doncaster Council to work alongside the council’s neighbourhood and town centre teams to patrol the town centre seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. The joint initiative, established at the beginning of September, has provided over 1000 hours of additional police presence in the town centre, equating to over 130 hours per week or 18 hours per day.
In this short period of intense activity, co-ordinated work to support people into accommodation and support for addictions and mental health and related issues, including a new drop-in clinic, has seen over 40 people helped off the street into accommodation and support. Reports to the police relating to begging have halved and anti-social behaviour has reduced by a fifth.
Due to this success, the extra patrols are to be extended for another three months until the end of February 2019.
And helping people to get back on the right track has helped one Doncastrian 42-year-old Joe*. Joe has taken small but significant steps to get the support he needs after being released from jail. Even before he left prison, the complex lives team worked with him on a plan to get him into accommodation and off drugs which means he now has a place to live, is on a training course and has better mental health.
When asked about the support he’s received, Joe said: “It’s amazing. They transform lives, they take people who are lost and forgotten and give them back a life.”
A campaign discouraging town centre visitors from giving money on the street to those who are begging was launched at the end of October. People can instead donate money via text to a new giving fund named Real Help Doncaster and the campaign has seen over £1,000 donated in the first month. This money will be used towards support in getting people off the streets and for the most vulnerable people in the community to get longer term help.
Work is also underway to better connect the courts and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider sentencing that encourages attendance at treatment/ rehab to break the cycle of crime, drugs, begging and anti-social behaviour as well as looking at the support that is given to people who are released from prison with the probation service.
Better street lighting and extra clean ups are taking place alongside litter enforcement.
As the darker winter months are here, helping vulnerable people to access services and support will be a major part of the approach.
Local businesses have joined the council in supporting events to increase footfall in the town centre and to encourage visitors to enjoy the shopping and culture on offer.
More campaigns are planned to get more people to support their local area and ‘buy local’ in the run up to Christmas and beyond.
Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest, Doncaster Neighbourhoods, said: “Early indications have proven that this joint approach is working and the extra police patrols in the town centre are having real impact. Some of the key successes have been over 2000 engagements with individuals since September, 46 stop and searches, over 100 arrests, seven criminal behaviour orders, nine criminal protection notices and six drugs warrants. However, the purpose of this joint partnership approach is that it’s not all about enforcement action. Our officers are engaging with people on a daily basis and helping them get the support they need to get off the streets and drug rehabilitation and mental health support. It is important to remember that these are vulnerable people who have complex lives.”
Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones said: “Although the issues we are facing are not dissimilar to those in other towns and cities across the UK, our approach is unique in that it’s a well thought through multi-agency response to some very complex problems. I am committed to ensuring that everyone who needs it gets the right support to help them into healthier and safer lifestyles. In doing this, in Doncaster we aren’t just tackling part of the problem, we are working together to ensure we help the people and the place at the same time.
“Doncaster will not be defined by the issues we are dealing with and with continued support for those most in need, together we will make a difference to our society. Joint working with businesses, increased town centre events and ongoing redevelopment of the town centre is helping to boost Doncaster’s reputation and bring a renewed sense of pride to our town. I am determined that team Doncaster collectively continue to improve on these early, positive results.”
Jackie Bailey, chair of Doncaster Town Centre Business Forum, added: “It is very encouraging to hear that the extra patrols which started in September, funded by the council, are to be extended. This is a very complex initiative and we are pleased that a long-term approach appears to have been adopted with, from figures released, early positive results. We hope the new campaign of Real Help Doncaster becomes an established avenue to providing a positive impact on the complex lives of those it can reach. There is no perfect solution, but hopefully the combined approach will make a difference to those who need and welcome the support.
“To add to this, the fact that numerous new businesses have opened in the last couple of months in the town centre, shows that there is belief in Doncaster's ability to increase viability and to get back a real sense of pride in Doncaster's town centre.”
Kathryn Singh, Chief Executive of Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We want Doncaster to be defined by our passion and commitment to help the most vulnerable people in our community and we are proud to play a part in this.”
- Category: Town Centre