11/03/2019

The city centre SOS Bus which offers a vital resource to the bustling nightlife In Norwich city centre on Friday and Saturdays nights is to have a new future which benefits even more people in Norfolk.

The volunteer-run service has for the past 11 years been managed by city centre youth charity, OPEN Youth Trust (OPEN) and during that time has helped more than 11,500 people.  From April 2019 the SOS bus will be managed by volunteering charity Voluntary Norfolk, who in addition to running the Friday & Saturday night SOS service, has plans to take the bus out and about into the county during the week to promote and support other health & wellbeing and voluntary activities.  Voluntary Norfolk will also support  and mentor the volunteer group to increasingly take an active role in the management of the SOS Bus and all its activities.

John Gordon-Saker, CEO for OPEN said: “When the SOS Bus was first established the user demographic was much younger than it is today, with an average age of 18, and was a nice fit with our mission as a youth charity. However, over time this has changed and the volunteers are now attending to much older clients, so the time is right to hand on the service to an organisation with a deeper resource and strong volunteer ethic which is not limited to a youth service.”

He continued ... “We are pleased that Voluntary Norfolk has agreed to take on this vital service to the night time economy and are confident they will be able to draw upon a larger volunteer base to ease the pressure on a resource heavy service.”

Alan Hopley, Voluntary Norfolk’s CEO said: “Volunteers have been vital to the running of the SOS bus since it began and, with our support, will play an even greater role in its future.  We are looking forward to working with these incredible, dedicated volunteers and exploring new opportunities to use the SOS bus to promote health, wellbeing and volunteering in Norfolk.’ 

The three NHS clinical commissioning groups for Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk, plus Norfolk County Council’s public health team, are together contributing £300,000 to the running of the SOS bus over the next three years.

Tracy Williams  Queens Nurse and Chair of Norwich CCG said “ The SOS  Bus really is  a significant part of the Norwich Night scene with a track record of supporting vulnerable people on the streets of Norwich.  I would like to pay tribute to all the volunteers and paramedics who work unsocial hours and are committed to keeping people safe.  I would also like to thank OPEN for their 11 years of  providing a fantastic caring service that has kept many young people of Norwich and Norfolk safe when they have become vulnerable on a night out.  We are pleased that we have been able to continue funding the SOS bus and we are delighted that Voluntary Norfolk has accepted the baton from OPEN to keep this much valued service available in the city of Norwich”     

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said:

“By making a financial contribution to the SOS Bus, Norfolk County Council’s Public Health is supporting the important role it play within Norwich’s night-time economy. The team will work the volunteers who run and maintain the bus and service, along with Volunteer Norfolk, over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition from OPEN to Voluntary Norfolk.”