In normal, pre-Covid days Cheltenham Guardians would be seen responding to around 12 incidents per shift, with several classed as ‘high-risk.’ However, these are not normal times and the landscape of the night-time economy has changed dramatically.
Launched in 2015, Cheltenham Guardians has saved emergency services over one million pounds by providing safeguarding and welfare services to young adults. But since night-life has ceased to exist since March, the question is, what does the role of a Cheltenham Guardian now look like?
Guardians Director, Terry Howard said the core work of the Guardians was seriously affected during the lockdown and the bottom line that “no people in the town centre meant no work for us,” so it was vital that the Guardians took a step “outside of our comfort zone” to continue their community support in another way.
Cheltenham Guardians’ work is very community-based and so it has been important that they have trusted and established relationships with the local residents. As physical interaction was restricted, Mr Howard said social media became a “valuable tool” to share vital information and messages of positivity. These important values led to the group to create the Cheltenham Community Network as a platform where local residents were able to ask for and receive help.
Mr Howard said support from the community had been “beyond all expectations.” Cheltenham Guardians took a very hands-on approach and due to this support, they were able to raise over £10,000. This money has gone towards multiple causes, including helping NHS and care workers, the police force and providing PPE to the community.
As restrictions eased, only three shifts took place before services were completely removed due to the lack of demand in the town. Despite this, Mr Howard has full faith in the future of Cheltenham Guardians, stating that “as soon as nightclubs re-open our service user base will return and so will we.”