Norwich clubland’s SOS Bus changes hands as average age of clients soars

The SOS Bus on Prince of Wales Road. Picture: Abigail Nicholson

The SOS Bus on Prince of Wales Road. Picture: Abigail Nicholson - Credit: Archant

A bus which offers a vital resource to the bustling nightlife in Norwich city centre is set to help even more people in Norfolk.

Norwich SOS Bus staff

Norwich SOS Bus staff - Credit: Archant

For the past 11 years, the volunteer-run SOS Bus has 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, which in addition to running the Friday and Saturday night SOS service has plans to take the bus out and about into the county during the week to support other health and wellbeing activities.

John Gordon-Saker, chief executive 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.

Norwich SOS Bus staff look after a woman on the floor outside of a bar

Norwich SOS Bus staff look after a woman on the floor outside of a bar - Credit: Archant

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'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 chief executive, 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.

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'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, Queen's Nurse and chairman 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.'

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