A pioneering business accreditation scheme is being launched in in Westminster to identify venues and businesses that are focused on increasing safety for women in the night time economy and trained in dealing with sexual harassment.
The scheme, which is the first in the UK, is the next phase of Westminster City Council’s Night Safety programme. It uses a healthy slice of the Home Office Grant awarded to the local authority last year to combat sexual harassment and women’s safety in the West End.
Businesses can apply to become accredited and on satisfactory completion of an initial questionnaire. If they pass, they will receive a report detailing their success as well as information about resources to improve their processes, procedures, and training. Their certification lasts for one year with random spot checks from the council’s City Inspectors aimed at maintaining standards. Successful businesses will be awarded a certificate on completion and are encouraged to display signage to notify people of their accredited status.
Making sure all users of Westminster’s night-time economy stay safe remains a top priority in the Fairer Westminster delivery plan. But sadly, women’s safety continues to be an issue. In a 2021 Westminster City Council survey, it was found 66% of women in the borough had had a personal experience of street harassment, and 45% reported feeling unsafe at night. The most common crimes being violence and sexual offences, which is particularly high in the West End. By working with businesses and teaching them how to spot unwanted behaviour, the council remains committed to reducing these numbers and making the city a safe and enjoyable place for residents and visitors.
"We are always pleased to be involved in any initiative that helps our guests to feel safe and welcome.
“Our musicians and entire teams are trained to spot unwelcome behaviour and we are delighted that our West End venue have been recognised and accredited by this excellent scheme.
“We will certainly encourage our friends in other venues in Soho to join."
Cllr Aicha Less, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Protection and Licensing, said:
“The West End should be a fun and safe place for our residents and visitors to enjoy. Everyone, especially women, have the right to feel safe. But unfortunately, the anti-social behaviour of some individuals can ruin a night out or someone’s experience of our city.
“Being able to share details of Westminster’s accredited venues, where women and visitors can feel safe, is vital to fulfilling our Fairer Westminster commitment that safeguards residents and visitors when enjoying Westminster’s vibrant nightlife.
“With more businesses joining the scheme, we can create a trusted network of venues where people feel safe, and staff can call out unwanted harassment.”
Published: 26 October 2023