Sue Leighton, Manager at South East Dorset Community Accessible Transport (SEDCAT) shares with us what’s been happening at her organisation recently
Part of our focus at SEDCAT last year was to increase our fundraising so that we are in a better position to launch new services and plug more of the gaps in Bournemouth and the surrounding areas. Our members have given us fantastic support and with some help from the local community our total stands at around £6,000. One of our members who gave us a donation said she felt like she had been let out of prison when she started using the services.
In addition we have had a number of successful bids from small community pots and it was very gratifying to us that funders were able to appreciate the value of what we do and how this feeds into the wider community and economy. A small amount of funding can have a direct effect on reducing the cost of a service which gets passed on to the user. We are hoping to launch our new service next month which will get people to non-emergency hospital appointments at the out of town hospitals and the small subsidy we have had will make a big impact on the fare the passenger pays.
Local GP’s are spending time and resources on trying to find ways to get their patients to appointments; a missed appointment typically wastes £160 of public money. If 100 people are saved from missing their appointment, that’s £16,000 of public funds which can be put to good use elsewhere. We hope that the local CCG will recognise that these community led solutions are a valuable resource and provide good value for money.
We were in a celebratory mood at Christmas and wanted to thank our volunteer car drivers who do a great job by having a Christmas celebration and with help from our local Asda at Castlepoint we awarded them ‘hero’ badges and chocolates and provided a buffet. Our team of 26 drivers, (some of whom had a difficult year themselves) carried out around 6,500 journeys so we felt that they deserved some recognition and Asda agreed with us!
We put one of our buses to good use on Christmas day to help people living on the margins of society. We were able to offer a bus and driver to help local churches in Bournemouth bring people in from the streets for a meal on Christmas Day; Nick our driver gave his time and we provided the resources to make sure that transport was not going to be the obstacle that prevented people from having a hot meal on this day.
I think the main challenges for us as a small operator are increasing and updating our resources to be in a position to respond to need and working more collaboratively with some of the other voluntary schemes in the area to serve a need. Dorset as a whole has seen severe cuts to local services, a reducing social care budget and reform of local councils which will see a reduced number of councils but bigger Unitary Authorities to come. Bus companies are looking at how they can run their services efficiently and profitably with reduced subsidies and this is creating larger gaps in the network than we have seen in the past.
Rural isolation is a problem in areas of Dorset and the small villages surrounding Bournemouth are losing their one weekly service. Community Transport is helping by providing services and CT Operators in Dorset are coming together to identify what they can do to help. We have a large elderly population, living longer at home with chronic conditions and in some cases the onset of dementia. Loss of weekend services has hit the young as well as the old and this is an area which we feel we should be more involved in.
The CTA provides invaluable support to Operators like ourselves who are small in size but large in ambition to help solve local transport problems. The CTA website is always our first port of call if we are looking for advice and guidance on issues and the road shows and annual conference keep us updated with the wider work of community transport and legislative changes helping us to make our services more relevant and sustainable. I always find the CTA events very motivating, they give us an insight into how we might take on board new technology, work collaboratively and challenge us to find unique approaches to solving local transport problems.
Want to find out more about SEDCAT? Visit http://www.sedcat.org.uk/