I realise I have told you a lot about the church I bought and my progress in opening up parts of it – but I’ve neglected to tell you about why I bought it for my charity and what my charity actually does.
So, here goes;
Background, Mission Statement & Objectives
Our organisation’s overall mission is to potentially save lives by preventing and reducing violence and the fear of violence throughout Scotland; and to empower individuals to manage safer lives.
Our main objectives to help us achieve our aims are:
- To provide practical training and solutions to help people avoid violence and aggression.
- To raise awareness of the importance of personal safety in Scottish communities.
- To provide a point of contact for people at risk of violence or those seeking advice in Scotland.
- To decrease the fear of crime within Scottish communities by providing proactive training and advice.
You see, I believe personal safety in our communities is everyone’s concern and The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety aims to be proactive in addressing these issues.
In the summer of 2013, after trading as a social enterprise since 1997, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety was registered as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) with OSCR (SC044042).
Although there are a few personal safety training groups in England, there is nothing of this nature in Scotland and nothing with regard to residential training anywhere in the UK – or Europe for that matter. Recognising this niche and the importance this has for communities throughout Scotland is the fundamental reason why The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety came into being.
Initially, the charity functioned as a peripatetic training service that could be delivered at the point of need – and to a greater extent, this is still the case. However, by the end of 2014 it became clear that individual bookings for training courses would not sustain the charity and a more reliable source of stipend was needed as the ‘bread and butter’ income source of the charity.
The purchase of Barony St. John hall building brought the church building into our possession also and so our vision for the future has now become a Five-Phase plan:
Phase One was the opening of the hall and toilet facility areas – which we have already succeeded in doing;
Phase Two will be the opening of the entire hall building;
Phase Three is the building of a second floor above the training hall area to accommodate up to twelve residential course participants from all over the country plus a caretaker;
Phase Four concentrates on the opening of the church building as an Event Centre providing a venue for live bands, plays, musicals, weddings, parties, conferences, etc.;
Phase Five will realise the development of the courtyard which joins the hall building and the church building into a glass covered reception / cafe entrance. This will also house The William Wallace Visitor Centre.
The vision for The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is to develop a service that makes a tangible difference to the lives of people throughout the country by helping manage the threat or perceived threat of violence across society.
We picture a Scotland where individuals are free to conduct their lives without the threat or fear of violence preventing them from contributing to society in a meaningful and fulfilling manner.
The purchasing of the Barony St. John buildings not only provided us with a venue to showcase our personal safety courses and practical self defence training from but also provides the local community with a point of contact should they need advice on personal safety matters.
As our courses become more widely known throughout Ardrossan and the Three Town (Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Stevenston) population, public awareness with regard to the importance of personal safety will be increased and as more people participate in our training the fear of violent crime will decrease.
In short, the success of this Barony St. John project will enable us to fulfil all of our charitable objectives.
The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety was created in response to a proven need that vulnerable people are being targeted as victims of violence (verbal, emotional and physical).
The organisation is operated by a Board of Trustees with daily operational leadership provided by your truly – Alan Bell.
The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety works with like-minded organisations to provide a range of confidence building and awareness raising courses and workshops to educational facilities from nursery pupils to college / university students; women and girls; the elderly; people with disabilities; black and minority ethnic groups; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups; victims of domestic violence; and victims of violent crime including rape, assault, mugging and attempted murder.
Although statistical trends on crime in Scotland overall are decreasing, in Ardrossan Central crimes such as domestic violence, assault and in the Three Towns area, knife crime, is increasing year on year – and in Scotland as a whole there are still significant numbers of violent criminal acts perpetrated on an annual basis.
There is also the perception of violent crime that leads to people altering their normal behaviours and reducing their quality of life as a result. As a result of both issues, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety sees our services as continuing to have a high degree of relevance and applicability to Scottish society both today and in the foreseeable future.
The original plan was for The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety to offer our services as close to the point of need as possible (travelling to client’s offices etc.) however at the end of 2014 it was decided to relocate to the Central belt area where violent crime is most prevalent in Scotland and to find a physical building to operate from.
We have strong links with Glasgow based ASSIST (Advocacy, Support, Safety, Information, Services Together – a specialist Scotland-wide domestic abuse advocacy and support service focussed on reducing risk and improving the safety of victims of domestic abuse); Glasgow Community Safety Services; Ayrshire Community Trust; Police Scotland; North Ayrshire Council; North Ayrshire Women’s Aid and North Ayrshire Refuge (based in Ardrossan).
So when Barony St. John Church & Halls in Ardrossan came up for sale I jumped at the chance to buy them – but not before a little research.
Although a seemingly unlikely location for our first Centre, unemployment and anti-social behaviour is high in North Ayrshire and North Ayrshire’s rate of domestic violence has been consistently very high. Indeed, there was a 90.5% increase in recorded domestic abuse incidents responded to by Police in North Ayrshire between 2003/04 and 2011/12.
North Ayrshire continues to experience amongst the highest levels of domestic abuse in Scotland, with incidents recorded by Police 17% higher than the national average in 2012/13. North Ayrshire is also in the top ten neighbourhoods in Scotland where residents are most worried about housebreaking and almost 70% of residents feel unsafe while walking alone after dark.
Having established a need for our services in this area, the Barony St. John, with its huge hall and training room potential, became an ideal location to run our first Scottish Centre for Personal Safety from.
Our training services will be delivered using a bank of self-employed / volunteer trainers. All our instructors are qualified and undertake refresher training which does not involve martial arts but rather personal safety and self defence skills.
Historically, a number of companies have advertised self defence courses which were in fact martial arts in disguise. These may work in a classroom situation but not on the street or in the home. Add to this, the problems of having an insured martial artist teach self defence skills when they are only insured to teach their art and you begin to understand the legal as well as the moral implications for using our qualified self defence instructors. Further complications do arise if participants are not informed of the legality of defending oneself. Our courses cover Scottish and UK Law, citizen’s arrest and the use of improvised weapons.
A study of women’s self defence training across Europe (Seith & Kelly, 2003) found that those generating the best results “combined learning physical techniques with providing accurate information about risk and likely perpetrators, assertiveness training and role-play – in some approaches extending to scenarios with padded assailants, as well as space for discussion and reflection. It is also holistic in that the whole range of potential violence is addressed – from sexual harassment through domestic violence to rape and sexual assault.”
This is where The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety excels in the training we provide. We structure our courses to reflect this method of teaching, injecting humour (appropriate to the class and content) as well as employing sympathetic and friendly staff. This approach is vital to our success as the attack scenarios are realistic and can be, potentially, traumatic. Feedback from our participants shows that the combination of trust, realism and elation felt by trainees make our courses unique and highly recommended.
Our training services are typically delivered on a group basis as well as one-to-one in a classroom/workshop style environment. The trainer will explain the theory behind our approach and then engage directly with participants in the practical delivery of the most appropriate methods of ensuring the personal safety of everyone undertaking the course.
Our bespoke services are delivered across Scotland and further afield in locations to suit the needs of attendees but can now be delivered from a central Scottish location i.e. the Barony St. John. By adopting this two-prong approach we aim to ensure that attendees feel the courses are built around them as individuals rather than as a series of “off the shelf” events delivered to a mass market. It also means that we can maintain a point of contact whilst ensuring our overheads are balanced by opening the hall up for community use / room rental.
Our primary services are the personal safety courses we run and we concentrate on four main areas;
- Personal Safety for Children, Pupils & Students (3-18yrs+) to combat school bullying, abductions, domestic violence, stalking, rape, sexual and physical assaults;
- Personal Safety for Women to combat workplace harassment, domestic violence, stalking, rape, sexual and physical assaults;
- Personal Safety for People with Disabilities to combat hate crime, bullying, workplace harassment, sexual and physical assaults;
- Personal Safety in the Workplace to prevent physical attacks, work place bullying and harassment.
Within the first year of opening our Centre in Ardrossan, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety plans to diversify into the following areas:
- Personal Safety for the Blind
- Personal Safety for Ethnic Minorities
- Personal Safety for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender People
As well as these courses, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety has developed a “Fighting Fit” exercise class involving elements of self defence with dance and circuit training. This has proved very popular in the past and will be a main feature of our training hall programme.
The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety also plans to establish various national personal safety awareness campaigns and, although only at the discussion stage, suggestions for this include;
- Scottish Personal Safety Day – a day when businesses and communities can actively support personal safety by raising awareness within their families and/or workplaces and running practical personal safety / self-defence events;
- Anti-Racism Day – highlighting the need to stop hate crimes and race related abuse / violence in Scotland;
- Scottish Day of Acceptance – a national day designed to highlight the acceptance of various religions, cultures, races and sexual orientations.
So, hopefully this has given you a little insight into our work and what we have done / plan to do.
If you’d like to know more, check out our website http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk and our Facebook page Facebook/ScotCPS.