Jonathan McCambridge (PA)
Hospitality and security staff across Northern Ireland are to receive training as part of a new initiative to help identify customers who are unsafe or feeling threatened.
Under the scheme, they are being trained that anyone who asks for “Angela” may be using a code to indicate they need help.
The “Ask for Angela” initiative started in 2016 and has been rolled out in various parts of England and Wales.
It is now being formally rolled out to the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland, with the backing of the PSNI who have designed the training package.
Under the initiative it is hoped a person within a licensed venue can quickly alert staff and get help.
Staff will then take the customer to one side and find out more about the support they need.
They can then help reunite them with a person they trust, make sure they get into a taxi safely, call security to remove who is causing distress, or contact police.
Working with networks such as Hospitality Ulster, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the Security Industry Authority, over 100 venues have registered to take part and committed to training their staff.
The training will be backed up by posters to display in local premises and digital media, to raise awareness of the scheme, throughout December and 2023.
Joel Neill, operations director of Hospitality Ulster said: “Everyone should be free to meet and enjoy what our industry has to offer without concern for their safety, and we will continue as an industry in our efforts to ensure this is the case.
“We encourage all hospitality businesses to sign up to ‘Ask for Angela’ and ask their staff to complete the excellent and easy-to-use training pack, in the event that it is able to help someone in need.”
Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher said: “With Christmas and the party season upon us, it seems more important than ever to back this innovative campaign and work with our partners to encourage venues across Northern Ireland to sign up, if they haven’t done so already.
“It is a simple, yet effective, initiative that allows those who may find themselves in a vulnerable situation with a quick and discreet way to access the help they need.
“We know that the hospitality sector across Northern Ireland works hard to create safe places for people to go out and have fun so this is another way that local businesses can make their customers feel even safer.”
She added: “Officers across all policing districts will be backing up this safety initiative with targeted patrols, proactively looking out for predatory behaviours and safeguarding anyone who may be presenting as vulnerable.”
Willie Jack, Owner of the Duke of York, the Harp and the Dark Horse in Belfast, said: “If you’re out and about in my venues and need help for whatever reason, please don’t hesitate to approach staff and ‘Ask for Angela’, they will know what to do.”
Both Queen’s and Ulster universities have also signed up to support the scheme, registering the licensed venues across their campuses.
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said: “The industry sees this campaign as an innovative and positive way of addressing any issues that may arise while offering reassurance for those who may find themselves in a vulnerable position.”
Local venues are being asked to register for the scheme at https://hospitalityulster.org/askforangela.