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Safe haven from disability bullies set up in Worthing
People with learning disabilities who are hounded by bullies could soon have a safe haven in Worthing town centre.
Shops and other businesses are being asked to provide a shelter for anyone being threatened or called names so they can escape their tormentors and regain their confidence.
It's been inspired by the success of a similar network launched in Horsham, the Safe Place scheme.
A group of victims in Worthing who have learning disabilities said they think the scheme could finally give them the confidence to go back into town.
Annie said she did not like shopping in Worthing because she was afraid a group of boys who had called her names before would be rude to her again.
Another called Robert said he would not go into Worthing because there were too many people, which made him nervous.
And Matthew said he sometimes becomes scared at bus stops if people are shouting but having somewhere safe to go would be useful.
The joint scheme is being set up by West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police in Worthing, Adur and Arun.
Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for health and adults services, said: “I know how important it is for people with a learning difficulty to integrate into the community but how difficult it can be at the same time.
“This fantastic scheme, which is already well supported in Horsham by local businesses, should help in providing reassurance to people with learning difficulties and I hope members of the local community in Worthing, Adur and Arun will provide the same level of backing.”
Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, Worthing and Adur’s district commander, said: “This is a great initiative and will certainly help promote confidence amongst vulnerable people to know that people care, that people will listen and that people will help if they become victims of bullying, abuse or if they simply have concerns and want someone to talk to.”
National statistics indicate that people with a learning disability are four times more likely than others to be robbed with violence or threats, one in four people with a learning disability say they have been physically assaulted while nine out of 10 people with a learning disability say they have experienced bullying in the last year.
Work started last week at My Network at Buddys Cafe in Worthing to recruit local people with learning disabilities to act as ambassadors to promote the scheme to local businesses and shops as well as potential members.
Membership is free. To apply people can download a form from our Safe Places pages , email Gary Capelin at email@example.com , or write to The Safe Places Scheme, The Strawford Centre, Blatchford Close, Horsham RH13 5RG.
Alternatively people can phone Jenny Stead, from Buddys Café, on 01903 202030.