The First Stop service, which provides a safe-haven during weekend evenings in Reading, is set to move to a new permanent location within Reading Minster this February.
The First Stop, which until now has operated from a bus located in Broad Street, works to improve safety for people and helps prevent unnecessary admissions to A&E by providing advice, reassurance and first aid. It has featured in Reading town centre from 9pm – 3am every Friday and Saturday night, for the past four years.
The service is staffed by first aid trained volunteers and medical professionals from South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS).
The First Stop, which is contracted by Reading Borough Council, is vitally supported by its partner organisations, including Thames Valley Police, SCAS, the four clinical commissioning groups in Berkshire West, Reading BID, Reading Street Pastors, Reading Minster, Reading Buses and Reading Voluntary Action.
The FIRST Stop project board had been exploring options to secure the service’s long term future when the option to join forces with Reading Minster was suggested.
No longer running the service from a bus will provide substantial savings and will make the service far more sustainable. There will be greater involvement from Reading Street Pastors and TVP Special Constables, who will provide discreet, low profile presence at the Minster.
The church, which has successfully operated its own ‘sanctuary’ scheme every weekend, from 10pm on Saturday nights until 2am on Sunday morning, since early 2016, already provides a place of refuge, recovery and refreshment for anyone in need. The church has reorganised its use of the building to provide for all the clinical needs of the FIRST Stop medical team.
From Friday 10th February, the FIRST Stop at Reading Minster will be open from 9pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights. Current FIRST Stop volunteers will transfer over to the new location and there will be no break in the service.
The service will continue to be managed by the current project board, with the Council managing the budget.
The FIRST Stop bus will still be used for health, educational and promotional events during the day.
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