The night time industry needs government support to improve bar staff training and recruit more security staff, particularly women, in order to tackle drink and needle ‘spiking’ at venues, MPs have said.
A report from the Home Affairs Committee says there is strong support for increased security measures at venues such as bars and nightclubs, but there is currently a critical shortage of door security staff. A City Hall report into London’s night time economy found door security staff levels were at about 80% of pre-Covid levels.
The committee heard evidence that security and bar staff sometimes dismiss customers’ claims that they have been spiked or eject them from the venue because they fear it will be brought into disrepute or will suffer financially. However, other witnesses told the MPs that venues are strongly motivated to eliminate spiking as they have a duty of care for their customers.
The group of MPs launched the inquiry into drink and needle spiking following a sudden increase in the number of spiking incidents in 2021. According to the National Police Cheifs Council, 1,032 cases of needle injection were reported between the beginning of September 2021 and the end of December 2021, most of which occurred in October 2021. By 26 January 2022, this figure had risen to 1,382.
Bar staff training and hiring
Helena Conibear, founder of the Alcohol Education Trust, told the committee that emergency responders and venue staff often presume victims of spiking have had too much to drink and that this attitude needed to change.
One anonymous victim told the MPs: “Often victims are just assumed to be too drunk or to have gotten into a messy state themselves, but this is not the case with spiking, and they need care, not to just be thrown out on the street.
“Whether it is additional staff that can take the extra time to assist suspected spiking victims, or just better training for current staff, this needs to improve.”
The MPs recommend that the government should consider a support package to help the night time industries recruit additional door security staff, particularly female staff. Only aroud 10% of security license holders are women. This package should also help with bar staff training.
Their report says staff working at music festivals, including vendors, should be given compulsory safeguarding training and that this should be a requirement that licensing authorities consider when approving events. Training should be completed to a more formalised and higher standard for outdoor music festivals, as these tend to be attended by younger age groups and often involve camping overnight.
Under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, security staff must attend approved training courses, and most venues already provide training to identify cases of spiking and provide support to victims. However, the Night Time Industries Association told the committee that there was more work to be done to educate staff.
The industry and government should also invest in education and building awareness around spiking, with the report recommending a national anti-spiking communications campaign as part of the government’s initiative to end violence against women and girls.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade association UK Hospitality, welcomed the call for more support for recruitment and bar staff training.
“The hospitality sector will continue to work together with the Home Office, police and local authorities to tackle drink spiking as part of the wider customer safety agenda, building on the good work many hospitality businesses are already doing to address the matter through both their own and joint initiatives, recognised by the committee,” she said.