Local businesses including, bars, pubs, hotels, restaurants and security staff across Northern Ireland are being given access to ‘Ask for Angela’ training to help people who feel unsafe, threatened or vulnerable on their night out this Christmas and beyond.
Under the scheme, they are being trained that anyone who asks for Angela may be using a code to indicate they need help.
The initiative started in 2016 and has been rolled out in various parts of England and Wales since. It is now being formally rolled out to the local hospitality sector, with the backing of the Police Service of Northern Ireland who have designed the training package.
It is hoped that by ‘asking for Angela’, a person within a licensed venue can quickly alert staff and get help. Staff will then take the customer to one side and find out more about the support they need.
They can then help reunite them with a person they trust, make sure they get into a taxi safely, call security to remove who is causing distress, or contact police.
Working in close partnership with established networks such as Hospitality Ulster, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the Security Industry Authority, over 100 local venues have already registered to take part and committed to training their staff.
Encouragement for more to sign up continues. Local venues are being asked to register for the scheme and access the training package via the Hospitality Ulster website here: https://hospitalityulster.org/askforangela
Joel Neill, Operations Director of Hospitality Ulster said: “Our world class hospitality businesses already strive to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience when they visit, and Ask for Angela is an effective resource now available to them to continue this work. Everyone should be free to meet and enjoy what our industry has to offer without concern for their safety, and we will continue as an industry in our efforts to ensure this is the case. We encourage all hospitality businesses to sign up to ‘Ask for Angela’ and ask their staff to complete the excellent and easy-to-use training pack, in the event that it is able to help someone in need.”
The training will be backed up by posters to display in local premises and digital media, to raise awareness of the scheme, throughout December and 2023. This initial rollout coincides with the busy festive period, when the number of people visiting pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs is expected to increase.
Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher said: “With Christmas and the party season upon us, it seems more important than ever to back this innovative campaign and work with our partners to encourage venues across Northern Ireland to sign up, if they haven’t done so already.
“It is a simple, yet effective, initiative that allows those who may find themselves in a vulnerable situation with a quick and discreet way to access the help they need.
“We know that the hospitality sector across Northern Ireland works hard to create safe places for people to go out and have fun so this is another way that local businesses can make their customers feel even safer.
“We want people to enjoy themselves on a night out but should any issues arise they can now ‘Ask for Angela’ at participating venues.”
Willie Jack, Owner of the Duke of York, the Harp and the Dark Horse in Belfast has signed up and is endorsing the scheme, saying: “Ask for Angela is a fantastic safety initiative, and we’re really pleased to be supporting it. The safety of our customers is and has always been, a priority for us and so is helping to create an environment where people feel comfortable. If you’re out and about in my venues and need help for whatever reason, please don't hesitate to approach staff and ‘Ask for Angela’, they will know what to do. We would encourage others to get involved too.”
Both Queen’s and Ulster University have also signed up to support the scheme, registering the licensed venues across their campuses. Speaking about the campaign, Director of Student Plus at Queen's, Caroline Young said: "We are pleased to roll out the Ask for Angela campaign across university premises as an important support mechanism and message for all students, staff and community using our bars and a range of other venues. The wellbeing of our students is a key priority at Queen's and we will do all we can to ensure that our premises are safe and welcoming for everyone. This is an issue for our wider society, and we welcome the opportunity to stress the message that feeling safe while we are socialising is not negotiable - it should be expected."
Amanda Castray, Director of Campus Life at Ulster University said: “Student safety and wellbeing is a top priority for Ulster University. Students socialise on our campuses and in venues in our university cities and towns during term time, as well as closer to their family homes during the holidays or at weekends. We are pleased to join with other licensed venues in the hospitality sector to introduce this important safety initiative on our campuses and will share it widely with both our students and staff so that they can enjoy nights out wherever they are and feel confident to seek assistance by ‘asking for Angela’, should they ever need it.”
Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said: "The hotel sector greatly values its reputation as a safe and secure setting for guests. The industry sees this campaign as an innovative and positive way of addressing any issues that may arise while offering reassurance for those who may find themselves in a vulnerable position. Hotels and the wider hospitality industry have come together and will benefit from the training and support that the Police Service have provided coming into the busy Christmas period.”
A map of local venues signed up to the scheme already can be found on the Police Service’s website here and will be kept updated as more sign up throughout December and beyond: https://www.psni.police.uk/AskForAngela
As part of the Police Service’s annual Operation Season’s Greetings, the public can also expect to see more officers out on targeted patrols within the night time economy to keep people safe.
Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher added: “Officers across all policing districts will be backing up this safety initiative with targeted patrols, proactively looking out for predatory behaviours and safeguarding anyone who may be presenting as vulnerable. We already have established relationships with our local licensed venues and they know we are never too far away if they need police assistance.”