Adults with dementia, mental health issues and brain injuries will soon be able to access more than 70 ‘safe places’ in Sheffield following a detailed review of experiences of vulnerable people across the city.

There are currently more than 70 shops, offices and community facilities registered as ‘safe places’ for people with learning disabilities who may feel lost, unwell or frightened when they are out and about in Sheffield. The Sheffield Adult Safeguarding Partnership hope to expand the service this year to include 1,800 people following interest from other community and support groups which help those with dementia, mental health issues and brain injuries.

Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police will be working with the partnership, which funds the service and is based at Heeley City Farm, to map out where incidents, including abuse, take place to ensure ‘safe places’ or refuges are set up in areas where people need them the most.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living, said:

“It’s incredibly sad that many vulnerable adults are targeted as victims of abuse. But this scheme means they can access support and help via the safeguarding adults services in the city for anything from financial issues, physical threats or discriminatory abuse to simply finding safe places such as local libraries and community centres where they are safe from harm.

The vast majority of abuse takes place in an individual’s home at the hands of family, friends and carers. But at the moment we don’t have a complete picture of the extent of the abuse and neglect people face and where the hot-spots for this may be in Sheffield.

One of our priorities for the year ahead is to establish the potential extent of neglect by starting to map this across the city.

We hope our research will lead to an increase in the number of businesses, community groups and service providers coming forward to offer a safe place for the most vulnerable people in our society.

We want more individuals to take advantage of the service and to send a stark warning to perpetrators that disciplinary action will be taken.”

Alerts of concern have increased by 27 per cent from 2069 to 2633 in 2011/12. Much of this it is thought can be attributed to awareness raising following high profile incidents of neglect nationally.

Referrals to the safeguarding service continue to be drawn from a wide variety of sources including residential care, primary and secondary health care plus family and friends. Individuals who use Safe Places are encouraged to carry a Keep Safe card which helps them communicate with staff or volunteers and carries key contact details for a family member of next of kin. People with more severe learning difficulties who struggle to manage the use of a card are given a lanyard similar to those given to individuals enrolled in the City Wide Alarms scheme.

Staff or volunteers who offer a safe place are given disability awareness training and are advised how to spot those suffering from hate crime or prejudice. All the venues are approved by police.

A number of agencies, such as the Dementia Alliance which supports people with dementia, have expressed an interest in the scheme which will increase membership to more than 1,800 in the next year.

Sheffield Safe Places is now recognised regionally as a great example of this type of initiative with plans to roll out similar schemes in Leicester, Barnsley, Derby, Nottingham and Kirklees.

The issue of safeguarding vulnerable adults was discussed by the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny and Policy Committee earlier this month.

David Lovett, of Heeley in Sheffield, has used the service since 2012. He said:

“Having Safe Places for me to go to in Sheffield is really reassuring for me. I like seeing my friends in town and people at those places look after me. I’d be devastated if I felt I couldn’t go out. It really helps give me the confidence to go out and about because I know that if I need help I can ask people who are trained and who know what to do.”