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‘We know we are saving lives… but there is so much more to do’

In its 30th anniversary, safety education organisation Safety Centre (Hazard Alley) was named Charity of the Year at the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards. Andrew Gibbs went to its facility to find out more about its work and the lasting benefits it brings.

JUST OVER 30 years ago, a group of concerned organisations and individuals sat down to discuss an idea for a world first: an immersive, interactive education centre that solely delivered learning and awareness of safety to young people. Three decades on, the work of Safety Centre (Hazard Alley) is as relevant and as much in demand from schools, community groups and individuals as ever.

It delivers regular education sessions for schoolchildren, using its 12 real-life scenarios housed within its facility in Milton Keynes to bring extra realism and impact to each message. And, as well as being a potential lifesaver now, the safety message often remains ingrained well into adult life.

“So many people tell us that they have come here when they were a child and still remember what they learned,” said Safety Centre chief executive Maya Joseph-Hussain.

She tells the story of 14-year-old Adam helping his grandmother and younger sister after a road accident which left his grandmother trapped in the car. He had visited Hazard Alley in Key Stage 2 and, from what he learned that day, knew to call 999 to alert emergency services, answer the operator’s questions and allow the responders to arrive with the right resources and equipment.

His mother Helen told the centre: “Adam remained calm and kept everyone else calm so I wanted to say thank you to your team and to let you know the impact a visit to you has even years later. Keep doing what you do because it definitely has an impact.”

Away from the centre, volunteers deliver a session on knife crime at a school in Milton Keynes. “In that class was a young boy who had lost a sibling to knife crime,” Maya said. “His family wanted him in that session so he would understand the significant impact of a knife crime incident. Retaliation was not the right route for him to go down and carrying a weapon for self-defence or other reasons was not right for his future. I found that incredibly empowering.”

The Safety Centre acknowledges the responsibility it holds. It works alongside the police, emergency services, Milton Keynes City Council, Milton Keynes Community Foundation and Thames Valley’s Police & Crime Commissioner. These organisations provide funding for some projects, such as the Knife Angel sculpture, heading a national campaign against knife crime, that spent a month outside Stadium MK on its nationwide tour at the end of 2022.

The community foundation has set up three-year strategic funding for the Safety Centre’s Violence Against Women and Girls programme. It has also provided funding for its work with refugees and families newly arrived in the area. The government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has awarded just under £100,000 for 220 extra hours of youth work with 11- to 14-year-olds to help them develop practical life skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, effective communication and coping with stress and emotions.

The programme is designed to give them the skills to navigate difficult decisions and situations to keep themselves safe. It is due to launch in several areas of the city in September.

The everyday funding, however, comes from other sources and the schools that use the centre for their pupils. “The assumption is that we are funded by the council or by the police,” said Maya. “In fact, funding comes from the schools paying to use us, from trusts and foundations.”

The Safety Centre charges £8 per young person for a session. It costs £28 per child to stage it. “But we need to keep what we do affordable and accessible,” Maya said. “We cannot put up barriers to safety education.”

Financial stability is key to the Safety Centre’s work and it is preparing to launch a 30th anniversary fundraising campaign aiming to generate enough to ensure the centre’s future for the generations to come.

The planning received a timely boost when the Safety Centre was named Charity of the Year at the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards in March. It had gone one better than the 2023 awards, when it was named among the finalists.

Safety Centre chief executive Maya Joseph-Hussain (front centre) with staff and supporters at MKBAA 2024.

Marketing and communications manager Sarah Surridge said: “We wanted to share with the community what we are doing and how we can help people. People know us as Hazard Alley but we are doing so much more than that.

“We want to connect with and work with the business community. The Violence Against Women and Girls campaign is an issue that impacts everyone and it is relevant for the business community and the people they employ.”

Added Maya: “We felt we had even more of a story to tell and success to share.

“The award showcases the breadth of what we have been doing. All those businesses at the ceremony found out about what we do. The PR is phenomenal.”

The Safety Centre delivers its education programmes across an area from Nottinghamshire in the north, Norwich in the east, west to Gloucestershire and south as far as London. “The aim is for us to be delivering these programmes across the whole country,” said Maya.

“We want to do even more as new safety needs are emerging and we want to be working at grass roots level. We want more people to come and use the centre and to reach more people through the education team.”

Added Sarah: “Businesses becoming involved with us will be associating themselves with a charity that is passionate about its work. They will be helping us to create a safe and flourishing community and by doing so are demonstrating their commitment to community engagement.

“We talk about business thriving in a community that is thriving and community safety has a big part to play in that. It would be a genuine partnership and collaboration.”

Maya took over as chief executive just before the pandemic, arriving from her previous role with Milton Keynes Community Foundation. “We are celebrating 30 years but in some respects we have only just begun. There is so much more to do but I know we are saving lives.

“I have met so many bereaved parents who have lost their child in an accident and they say to me if only they had had some early intervention. That ‘if only’ plays on my mind and I want as few parents, families and communities to suffer similar emotions as possible.

“It is what drives me. I need to help others and that motivation has been in me from when I was a child. It is in my DNA and just working here brings that to life for me.”


  • The Safety Centre’s facility at Kiln Farm houses 12 real-life scenarios for its safety education:

Home safety.

Road safety.

Railway safety.

Water safety.

Safe places to cross.

Personal safety.

Fire safety.

Online safety.

Choices and consequences.

Car safety.

First aid and recovery.

Bullying and shop theft.

  • In 2023 the Safety Centre delivered immersive education sessions to 11,095 visitors on site and to 13,788 pupils via its training events in the community. It estimates it has informed around 0.5 million people since 1994.
  • The current programmes are supported by UK gas distributors Cadent Gas and Southern Gas. The National Grid is also a supporter, as is highways maintenance company Ringway. The Motor Insurers Bureau, also based in Milton Keynes, sponsors the road safety programme.
  • The Safety Centre has a team of five volunteers – each with teaching experience – who deliver sessions in schools.

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