SOS Bus, YMCA Southend

Celebrating more than 10-years serving the night-time economy in Southend the SOS Bus project is a well-used project that has received significant recognition for its services.

In 2011, following the project’s success in Southend, it launched the Basildon SOS Bus by request of local authority, emergency services and the businesses in the area.

The project itself enjoys a double-decker bus which acts a static hub with first aiders providing support to young people and night-time economy users. The support ranges from keeping people safe to first aid, counselling, mental health and drug and alcohol support in addition, to a second vehicle that patrols the surrounding area to care for anyone who may have fallen by the wayside.

Referrals to the Southend & Basildon SOS Bus’ can be made by anyone. The partners in the project include the local authority CCTV control centre, nightclubs and Essex Police.

All volunteers receive comprehensive free training to be able to fully support project users, and the bus also delivers training to local nightclub and bar staff so that the venues are better able to support the night time economy.

It holds the Queens Award for Voluntary Services, Investors in Volunteers Standard and has been featured on a number of national UK documentaries (including YMCA’s Undercover Boss), and Southend YMCA’s SOS Bus project team have been visited by other organisations around the country (and from other countries) on discovery visits to explore how a similar project might be set up elsewhere.

It is estimated that over the last 10 years the Southend YMCA SOS Bus has saved the NHS more than £1 million in unnecessary Ambulance call outs and A&E admissions. This is in addition to being brought in by major local events to provide essential support for carnivals, festivals, firework displays and more. The bus supports thousands of people every year.

A team of more than 60 volunteers give 11,232 hours to help more than 1,200 people a year who feel threatened by illness, injury, emotional distress or loneliness.