In our latest blog we hear from Jon Brown, Community Transport Co-ordinator, at North Herts CVS in Letchworth. In April last year North Herts CVS took over a voluntary car scheme at a local hospital.
North Herts CVS is a support and development organisation, promoting, supporting and encouraging local voluntary activity in the North Herts and Stevenage area. We deliver a wide range of services, often in partnership with other voluntary and community sector organisations, so that everyone can contribute to improving their community.
One of the projects we manage is a busy community car scheme with a team of Volunteer Drivers who use their own vehicle to take less able people to health care appointments, physio, day centres, care homes and GP practices. Last year, we dramatically expanded our service when we took over the voluntary car scheme at our local NHS Trust, Lister Hospital, in Stevenage.
We undertook this work as we believed we had something unique to offer. We believed through our expertise in working in the local community we could build on the existing service; reach out to new service users, and most importantly ensure more people in our community could get to and from treatment in a timely manner.
Prior to launching our service in April last year a considerable amount of time was spent planning and preparing for the takeover. This has been key to our success. We spent time analysing the capacity of our own scheme, assessing demand at the Lister Hospital and meeting with the hospital’s current drivers. It was vital that we spent time building a relationship to ensure a smooth transition between their old service, and our new service.
32 drivers joined us at North Herts CVS which more than doubled our number of drivers. A further 14 drivers joined us as 2016 progressed. There was a massive increase in demand with a little over 900 new service users registering with us last year. Despite the increase in demand we continue to reach out to the local community and encourage them to use our service. We very rarely have to disappoint a service user. We also actively seek more Volunteer Drivers.
We believe the strength of community transport is that we offer a social service. The patients we take to and from hospitals get to know the drivers who will go the extra mile to ensure they arrive at hospital comfortably and on time. Our new volunteers are gaining experience, making new friends, and enjoying meeting a new range of people.
For us, the key to take away for other community transport operators considering schemes like this is to undertake rigorous planning prior to committing to new work. We spent a long time building strong partnerships and meeting new Volunteer Drivers. Now we ensure we keep in regular contact with all of our volunteers and we hold an annual celebration of their work. We very much value our volunteers, and we always look for new training opportunities to support them further.
It may take some time but this work has allowed us to grow as an organisation in a short space of time, and more importantly, strengthen our mission to get people in our community to where they need to be.