Capital drunk bus suspended in wrangle with charity bosses

Web drunk people

The SafeZone project helps people who have had too much to drink on a night out

Working On Wheels has suspended its Edinburgh SafeZone project to ensure disclosure checks are up to date

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9th February 2016 by Paul Cardwell 1 Comment

A charity project in Edinburgh which helps drunken revellers has been suspended after some of its volunteers were found not to be properly vetted to work with vulnerable people.

Working on Wheels temporarily stopped operating its Edinburgh SafeZone project on 22 January and is currently carrying out an internal investigation as to why all volunteers at the project hadn’t completed Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme checks operated by Disclosure Scotland.

The charity is also using the time to ensure those who aren't registered with the scheme become so.

At weekends SafeZone involves a converted bus being parked outside St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral at the top of Leith Walk, offering refuge, support and first aid to those who have had too much to drink, are vulnerable, have become separated from their friends, are homeless, are victims of assault and abuse or are part of the night-time economy.

The project, which launched in its current form in December 2013, also operates two ambulances in the city to go to the aid of those who need help, mainly around popular nightspots.

I am making extensive inquiries into the issues around the vetting of volunteers and also further allegations around the safety of the vehicle.

Neil Roberts, who was appointed interim chief executive of Working on Wheels at the end of September 2015, confirmed to TFN the charity had been made aware some of the volunteers hadn’t completed the appropriate checks.

“There is, it seems, an issue with the volunteers not being properly vetted,” he said.

“The service is currently suspended and I am completely adamant that until everybody on the vehicle is properly vetted we won’t go out again.”

Roberts also confirmed that senior personnel changes had been made at the SafeZone project and admitted a number of volunteers have since resigned in protest at some of the changes but denied the project now has a shortage of volunteers.

One former volunteer this week claimed that as many as 27 people had left and alleged there was a lack of equipment, vehicles weren’t maintained properly, volunteers had taken to buying their own equipment and management at Working On Wheels had been ignoring their requests for meetings.

Roberts added: “The organisation is taking the allegations exceptionally seriously.

“I am making extensive inquiries into the issues around the vetting of volunteers and also further allegations around the safety of the vehicle. That involves interviewing lots of staff, both current and those that formerly worked on the project.

“27 is not a figure that I recognise, however we will review our volunteer records. Not everybody has told us why they have left.

“I am of the view it is probably half of that number or less.

“What we are learning is that we need to have much more effective arrangements to manage our volunteers. Not just on vetting but on inductions, support, ongoing evaluations and appraisals.

“That is something that is being put into place as we speak.”

10th February 2016 by Frank Scott

I was the Team leader of the Edinburgh Safezone, myself and the majority of the volunteers resigned or withdrew their services after repeated requests to Mr Neil Roberts to address serious Safety concerns, It was myself and other volunteers that were insisting on us being PVG vetted. The serious concerns over vehicles were not addressed or even acknowledged. The PVG situation goes back October last year when we insisted to MR Neil Roberts to action this as a matter of Urgency as about 40 of 46 volunteers had not had their PVG application actioned some volunteers took the appropriate id upto office months ago. We were given an assurance on the 5th of November that this would be done, I have the full correspondence via email between myself, senior volunteers and Mr Roberts to back this up available for anyone to see. Mr Roberts is Stating that they are in the Process of getting PVG certificates for volunteers at the moment in a sense this is correct but if He had actually followed Disclosure Scotland Guidelines and checked upto date documents of ID before sending the applications of he would have realised that Volunteers have been married over a year and changed name. Volunteers have changed address. And some have categorically resigned and will not return until new management is in place so don't need a PVG MR Roberts is publicly quoting 60 Volunteers on the books this is not the case, as of the last week safezone operated we had 46 signed up volunteers who were available. Of the 46 only 32 have been on duty since 1St weekend in December and of that 32 a total of 27 have resigned or withdrew their services. Volunteers are out of pocket as not been able to get a response from office for reimbursement. He is quoted stating that their is allegations of bullying, has this been fully investigated and involved party's involved. He is quoted as saying funding is secured for safezone can this be clarified. Grievances have been raised by our most experienced volunteers has this been fully investigated. I sorry to have to write this but I cannot standby any longer and listen to the misleading if not downright lies coming from Mr Roberts. I have full documented proof to back up any claim I have made and myself and many of the volunteers are willing to meet with anyone who cares to actually find out the truth. Safezone is a much needed and valuable project that should still be operating, I have volunteers in tears wanting to go and do the job they love but can't under current management. There are many more provable facts of the situation if any body cares to see them it's all availableFrank Scott