Councils launch ‘safe havens’ network to aid women’s safety

man and woman in night time scene

Lambeth and Southwark councils have launched the first cross-borough network of safe havens to help keep women safe from harassment in London.

Working with the crime reduction organisation Safer Business Network, they have recruited and trained the staff of 39 licensed premises and other businesses in known harassment hotspots, including Loughborough Junction, Camberwell and Denmark Hill.

Signs in their windows tells women where they can access safety and support from trained staff when in need at night-time.

Women who feel unsafe or have been harassed can get assistance at these safe haven businesses which could include staff helping to organise safe transport home or calling family, friends or the police.

No.1 London Bridge in Southwark and Oasis Hub Waterloo in Lambeth belong to the scheme.

Cllr Mahamed Hashi, Lambeth council cabinet member for safer communities, said: “Women and girls face on-street harassment and abuse regardless of where borough borders start and stop.

“The safety of women and girls is an issue we must tackle together, and the opening of our safe havens is another measure put in place to help support those who may be facing harassment or in need of help.

“The launch of our safe havens follows a programme of practical interventions we have established to deter perpetrators from harassing women and girls, such as dedicated street wardens and increased CCTV.

“We will continue to work together to prevent problem behaviours and support those affected by harassment and abuse.”

Dave Cox, head of security at London Bridge City, said the company“aims to provide a welcoming, safe, and secure environment for all our customers and visitors.

“We recognise that this requires a multi-faceted and agile approach including embracing technology and supporting central and local government initiatives. We are pleased to help those in their time of need through safe havens on our estate.”

Ellie Wormald, advice centre coordinator and national lead practitioner (community support) at Oasis Hub Waterloo, said the centre’s mission is to provide a safe and accessible place for its local community to gather – “becoming a safe haven is a natural extension of this, and complements the holistic support provided by Oasis – we’re really pleased to start this partnership.”

Southwark council cabinet Member for community safety, Dora Dixon-Fyle MBE, said: “Women and girls feeling unsafe at night in London is nothing new. But historically, authorities have responded as if perpetrators and bad behaviour are bound by borders.

“We cannot tackle street harassment in isolation. Our joint approach with Lambeth means women are within easy distance of a safe haven across our border in known hotspots.”

The safe havens network is part of Lambeth and Southwark’s partnership work to tackle violence against women and girls in all its forms.

This will initially focus on areas along the borough boundaries including London’s South Bank, Loughborough Junction, Denmark Hill and Camberwell, which were chosen after analysing crime data.

The scheme was designed specifically around women and girls’ safety, but safe havens are open to support anyone who is feeling vulnerable or needs help. 

Lambeth council’s 2022 residents’ survey revealed that local women arenearly twice as likely as men to feel unsafe at night (45% women, 25% of men).

A 2021 survey of women’s safety in Southwark showed that while three out of four (75.7%) felt safe in the daytime only 16% felt safe at night.