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