Community Transport Christmas: Northampton Volunteer Car Scheme

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

Sally Jones, Northampton Volunteer Car Scheme:

Christmas is a very busy time of year for our car scheme and a large amount of preparation is done in the weeks leading up to Christmas: informing passengers to book their journeys early, making their bookings and allocating them to volunteer drivers.

An important role of the scheme and our volunteers is the safeguarding of our passengers. The main office is closed between Christmas and New Year, therefore we make sure that our volunteer drivers have a next of kin contact number for their passengers, to ensure that, should they not answer the door, our safeguarding procedure can be followed to make sure the passenger is safe and well. During this time we also make sure the passengers have their volunteer driver’s phone number should their appointment be cancelled or they are unable to attend for any reason.

We have just expanded our services to provide transport for well-being appointments, which enable us to take passengers to a broader range of well-being services and activities. This includes passengers who, due to illness or disability, are unable to get to these appointments themselves, who need assistance or may be socially isolated.  These well-being services and activities include day centres; support and social group sessions; lunch clubs; libraries; falls prevention; fitness classes and much more.

We believe this service will be especially well received over the Christmas period to assist passengers to access the support groups and well-being classes that they need, as well as play a fuller part in their local community, remain active, and help to prevent social isolation and recourse to public health services.

Many of our passengers live alone and rely on the scheme.  Our latest passenger survey feedback showing that 91% of respondents thought the scheme was a lifeline and it is particularly important over the Christmas period.

Our volunteer drivers offer much more than transport, they provide an invaluable source of support to passengers.   In addition to the health benefits of easily being able to access medical appointments, with the increased security, independence and other mental health benefits that this provides, passengers receive a lot of care and reassurance from the contact with their drivers.  Our volunteer drivers help to alleviate the isolation that some passengers face, and all work hard to put people at their ease and make them feel comfortable

All drivers have enhanced DBS checks and safeguarding training to ensure they can support passengers fully, physically, morally and emotionally.  They are a friendly face and a listening ear to many socially isolated people within the community who are often anxious about medical issues, age related issues, isolation and loneliness.

We aim to support our volunteers and passengers all year round and are proud that we can provide extra support to them over the Christmas season.

CTA Members’ Meetings – Recap

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From September to November we held a series of five events for members in different locations around the UK to discuss issues and concerns arising from the Department for Transport’s letter of 31 July 2017 on operator and driver licensing. We met nearly two hundred people from member organisations, in addition to all the other forums and meetings we’ve attended that others have organised.

As the events took place over a six week period there were different things happening which altered the content and support materials, such as the launch of the UK Parliament Transport Select Committee inquiry. We have therefore publishing a summary of the slides that represents the position we’d got to by the end of the programme. Please note that many of the slides are us simply reporting information from the DFT and these are not the view of CTA itself, although we do offer some analysis ourselves as well. The slides can be found here.

We already had an in-depth understanding of the main questions and concerns of members from when the letter first landed, but by gathering together we were able to test some of these further and see where some of the tensions lie in representing the various viewpoints amongst our diverse membership in all its shapes and sizes. The events also enabled us to develop some ideas further for how the sector should approach the forthcoming consultation, which we got to trial in the Transport Select Committee Inquiry.

Finally, the events gave CTA the opportunity to explain directly what we had been doing in an unmediated way. This helped members get a better understanding of why things were being done in certain way and what we hoped to achieve by that.

This series of events was a worthwhile experience and another important opportunity to remind ourselves and each other that we are care about the same things and want to work together to make sure we continue to have a thriving CT sector in this country.

Community Transport Christmas: Green Dragon Bus

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

Caroline Wilson, Green Dragon Bus:

08-on-side-of-the-road-in-the-snow-january-13.jpgA couple of years ago one of our regular passengers from Cardigan managed to break her leg. So she was stuck in hospital over Christmas much to her annoyance.  Her family were having a good Christmas lunch together but Mum was going to miss out – could we help in any way?

That got us thinking of what we could do.  We have an accessible vehicle that seats 7 people including the driver plus a wheelchair.  We and the family discussed the possibilities and with the help of the nursing staff and one of our volunteers she was able to join the family for Christmas lunch.

She said: “Words could not describe the happiness in being able to join in with the celebrations with the rest of the family.  For a volunteer to give up time especially on Christmas day was amazing and we can’t thank him and the Green Dragon Bus enough for making my Christmas!”

Do you have a Community Transport Christmas story to tell? Email tom@ctauk.org or fill in our short online form.

Community Transport Christmas: Grimsby and Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

Midge Curry, Grimsby and Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride:

Not Home Alone

Some time ago I wrote to CTA to let them know about an organisation that sprung into life following one man’s encounter with a very, very lonely lady. The organisation ‘Not Home Alone at Christmas’ came about when the husband of the organiser met an older lady who was in floods of tears at the prospect of yet another Christmas on her own. The gentleman and his wife decided that they had to do something about this and set up a big Christmas celebration for those who would otherwise be home alone at Christmas. They had begged, borrowed (but not stolen) enough food to provide a Christmas lunch for 80 people but had no means of transporting them to the venue.

We were only too happy to help and used our busses to get people to and from the festivities; the event was a resounding success.  The service has been operating for 2 years now and has increased its activities to four times per year, not just at Christmas. Recently they held another one of their gatherings, this time for 81 people!

Speaking with one of the drivers I learned how friendships have been forged and contacts maintained outside the events. Two ladies who had lived in the same street for years had never met each other before ‘Not Home Alone’ introduced them. They are now firm friends and visit each other and go out together. Others who live in close proximity have also formed little sub groups who get together for social groups and are no longer home alone.

Through working with Not Home Alone at Christmas, we’ve helped to ensure that being alone at Christmas is not an option in North East Lincolnshire and we’re proud that this has expanded to giving people friendship and companionship all through the year.  This year they will be holding their Christmas Day lunch once again, and we are so pleased to be part of such a heart-warming event involving numerous generous hearted people who will give up their own Christmas to make it special for others.

Do you have a Community Transport Christmas story to tell? Email tom@ctauk.org or fill in our short online form.

Community Transport Christmas: Tavistock Area Support Services

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

Diane Newman, General Manager, Tavistock Area Support Services:

URC_ Christmas Day 2016

Here at Tavistock Area Support Services we provide transport for people to attend the Rotary Christmas Day Lunch.  This will take up most of the day with three minibuses driven by volunteer drivers with volunteer escorts.

People are collected from their home and taken to the United Reform Church where Rotarians provide the traditional Christmas lunch with seasonal festivities. They all return home between 3 and 4 so the drivers are usually out from about 10 until 6 as vehicles will be checked etc. prior to the trips and on their return.

We will also be providing a further wheelchair accessible vehicle to a gentleman so that he can join his family for lunch at a local hotel.  We don’t advertise that we operate on Christmas Day but if we are asked we will put out the call.  As you would expect with volunteers someone will always put their hand up.  Kind hearts and generous natures, all of them!

Do you have a Community Transport Christmas story to tell? Email tom@ctauk.org or fill in our short online form.

Community Transport Christmas: Brent Community Transport

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

The following is a letter from Janaki, a volunteer for Brent Community Transport:

Janaki BCT.jpgHello, my name is Janaki, I am 16 years old, and last year, I volunteered with Brent Community Transport to help with the festive bus programme, where we took children, young people, older people and those with mobility limitations to central London to see the Christmas lights. I helped in cleaning and decorating the buses and during the journey, serving refreshments, snacks, and simply just talking and providing company. This was just an amazing experience, which I really enjoyed because this has helped me get out of my comfort zone as I was only used to communicating in a school and home environment. This role really opened up my thinking and understanding that there is so much more than only being surrounded by teachers, students, and family members. Furthermore this experience helped me to enhance my observational skills, listening skills, empathy, understanding, and patience.

I believe that it is very important for young people to take part in volunteering because it means that they are able to get out, open them up to challenges, a vast array of skills – hard and soft and broaden their knowledge. Volunteering will help young people to build a foundation towards personal development and their confidence as well as preparation towards an adult life. I believe that volunteering will contribute in aiding to transition a teen into an adult.

I believe that Brent Community Transport is offering an exceptional service to the community and this year, I will be volunteering again. Thank you to Brent Community Transport for giving me this outstanding opportunity to better myself as an individual both personally and vocationally.

Read more about Brent Community Transport’s festive bus programme from last year’s community transport Christmas blogs.

Do you have a Community Transport Christmas story to tell? Email tom@ctauk.org or fill in our short online form.

Next Steps Following the Transport Select Committee Inquiry

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This week saw the completion of the Transport Select Committee’s oral evidence sessions for its inquiry into community transport.  Following the committee the Department for Transport released a further letter on section 19/22 permits.  You can read the letter here.

At the Transport Select Committee Jesse Norman MP, Under Secretary of State for Transport, confirmed that the Government intends to issue its consultation on community transport before Christmas.  We also expect that the Transport Select Committee will issue its report in the coming weeks.

Department for Transport Actions

Many of us believed that the letter of 31 July signalled that a process would be followed to reach a conclusion to this longstanding source of unsettlement for our sector. The last few years of constant challenges and questions over how we run our services has seen services under threat and close long before the 31 of July letter.

We’ve worked over the last few months to bring national attention to your concerns so you can continue to provide accessible transport to those who need it most.  It’s clear that through this time you have continued to provide services with passion, tenacity, and dedication.

One thing we thought was also clear was that CT operators should continue to fulfil their obligations to adhere to currently published guidance until new guidance was issued, following the consultation. We believed there would be a sensitive approach to enforcement in the meantime.

However recent actions by the Department and other agencies has challenged that viewpoint. For example:

  • The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has revised its process for applying for Permits without any formal announcement of this.
  • On 9 November a document was issued to local authorities encouraging them to write to CT operators they work with to check compliance with the position on the regulations, as set out in the letter of 31 July. The letter also stated that it did not expect contracts to be cancelled, which has helped some CTA members in their conversations with local authorities.
  • On 27 November a document was uploaded to the Department for Transport’s website which set out which Permit holders the Department believed would continue to be exempt from Regulation 1071/2009. The Department’s published guidance has also been altered to signpost to this document.

We believe these actions are the Department’s genuine attempt to provide some clarity and reassurance to our sector. But the net effect of all of this has been to cause further alarm and uncertainty, given that it deviates from what many of us expected would be the sequence in which changes would be considered and then implemented. This was acknowledged by the Department in its session with the Transport Select Committee on Monday. It has also led to scepticism about the consultation itself if changes are happening prior to it taking place.

What should happen next?

We feel the Transport Select Committees inquiry has provided a valuable mechanism for a deeper understanding of the problems and potential solutions. Its report is likely to contain some important reflections on the process so far and lessons for what should happen next.

We believe that the Government should consider the Committee’s report before going ahead with its own consultation.

Whenever the Government intends to go ahead with its own consultation, we think it would be helpful for it to set out a timetable now for the sequence of activities we can expect to see.  As we said above, the issuing of several documents has taken the sector by surprise so we now want some clarity on what is going to happen and when.

Lastly, although the net effect of the documents that have been issued has been further alarm and uncertainty, they do contain some information that has helped some organisations. We are therefore committed to offering our thoughts to the Department on how to improve them and answer some of the questions that have been left unanswered.

Community Transport Christmas

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

We’ll be updating this page regularly, so keep checking back for new stories.

If you have a community transport Christmas story to share you can email tom@ctauk.org or fill in this short online form. 

Shencare Community Transport, Birmingham 

“I was astounded that a not for profit organisation would go to these lengths to help a family need.” Read a letter from Emma about the help and support given to her family by Shencare Community Transport last Christmas. Read more.

Brent Community Transport, London 

Read a letter from Janaki, a 16 year old volunteer for Brent Community Transport who, last Christmas, took part in their festive bus programme around London. Read more.

Tavistock Area Support Services, Devon  

“As you would expect with volunteers someone will always put their hand up. Kind hearts and generous natures, all of them!” Read Diane’s story about the work Tavistock Area Support Services do at Christmas. Read more.

Grimsby and Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride, North East Lincolnshire

Two years ago, Midge Curry from Grimsby and Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride sent in a story about a new project: ‘Not Home Alone at Christmas’. This year she shares the story of how this has expanded to help people all year round. Read more.

Green Dragon Bus, Pembrokeshire

Caroline Wilson shares her account of how Green Dragon Bus helped get one of their passengers home to their family for Christmas. Read more.

Northampton Volunteer Car Scheme, Northamptonshire 

Many of our passengers live alone and rely on the scheme.  Our latest passenger survey feedback showing that 91% of respondents thought the scheme was a lifeline and it is particularly important over the Christmas period. Read more from Sally Jones at Northampton Volunteer Car Scheme.

Little Green Bus, Lancashire

When passengers were cut off by snow, Little Green Bus rallied local business to make sure they had the supplies they needed. Read more.

SEDCAT, Bournemouth

Sue Leighton from South East Dorset Accessible Transport shares the story of how how they make sure that their passengers can get together for Christmas festivities as well as how they partner with local churches to help those without a home. Read more.

Access Plymouth, Devon

“We at Access Plymouth are very busy in the run up to Christmas, taking people to Christmas parties, social gatherings and, of course, shopping! Read more from Lesley Hargreaves at Access Plymouth.

CHEXS, Hertfordshire

“Everyone, young and old, had a great time building friendships and having fun. “Read the story of how CHEXS bought together older people and local sixth form students for a Christmas meal. Read more.

North Coast Community Transport, County Londonderry

“At this time of the year, where it is most often taken for granted that everyone has a family to spend time with or that each household has the money to prepare a Christmas dinner, one of our group members The Causeway Coast Vinyard understand that this is not always the case.” Read more from North Coast Community Transport.

Green Community Travel, Bristol

Read Jenny Bright’s story of how a Green Community Travel volunteer went above and beyond to make sure that an older couple could be together on Christmas day. Read more. 

One Community, Hampshire

“So you see, Community Transport is really the gift that keeps on giving in both directions – to the passengers and from them. It is important to recognise such generosity and positivity in times of adversity, and it is also good to highlight that the true spirit of Christmas is very much alive and well.” Read more from One Community.

Community Transport Christmas: Shencare Community Transport

Community transport works across the Christmas period, even on Christmas day, to provide those who would otherwise be alone with access to family, friendship, company and independence over the holidays. This December, we’re going to be sharing the stories of our members who go above and beyond at Christmas. 

Keep checking back on our main Community Transport Christmas page for all our stories so far.

The following is a letter from Emma to Shencare Community Transport about the help they gave her family at Christmas.

It was November 2016, Christmas was approaching, the tree was up, gifts wrapped, cards in the post.  Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of the year but around seven years ago all that changed.

In 2009 my mother, Lorraine, became very ill. From her emergency admittance to hospital back in 2009 she has endured many painful operations, had a leg amputated, been diagnosed with progressive MS, seen her sight deteriorate, had lengthy stays in two hospitals, one rehabilitation hospital and finally (after a lengthy funding battle) settled in a Nursing Home, ten miles away, where she will stay indefinitely.  All this and she is only 64 years old. She has three children and three grandchildren.

Although her nursing home give exemplary care it isn’t ‘home’. Throughout the years our main goal as a family has been to get Mom well enough to come home for Christmas.  Last year it was looking like this could finally be possible.

Our main obstacle to this was transport.  As Mom cannot transfer from a wheelchair she needs to be transported in an adapted vehicle.  Being Christmas day the option of ‘Ring and Ride’ wasn’t available to us.  We have used taxis in the past to do short journeys but every one we’ve used hasn’t been adapted properly, have been overpriced and after one particularly harrowing journey where the taxi door flew open on a duel carriageway (after not being closed properly) are ultimately unsafe.

I had noticed Shencare buses driving around my local area of Longbridge and decided to give them a call to see if they could offer any advice of who to contact about disability community transport over the Christmas period.  When I rang Shencare with my predicament, the manager was more than helpful.  He went above and beyond and to my complete shock and delight, arranged for a volunteer driver to pick Mom up from her Nursing home on Christmas day and take her back in the evening to her home.  I was astounded that a not for profit organisation would go to these lengths to help a family in need.

The manager and the volunteer driver even came to my home prior to Christmas day to talk about needs/risk assessments.  When Christmas day arrived we all had a wonderful time. Mom was transported in a safe and dignified manner and it really was a turning point in Mom’s rehabilitation.  It meant so much to Mom and the family and it wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness and facilities that Shencare provide.

This service is so important to our local community. It gave us the opportunity to spend Christmas together as a family for the first time in years.  They gave us that ‘normal’ that others take for granted.

Long may they continue!

Do you have a Community Transport Christmas story to tell? Email tom@ctauk.org or fill in our short online form.

Breathing new life into a community: Bo’ness Community Bus

The town of Bo’ness lies 20 miles west of Edinburgh. It has 15,000 residents and it’s the kind of place where you would expect there to be good transport links to the capital. However, following the withdrawal of commercial bus services in 2016, local residents found themselves isolated.

Rab and Helen Jeffery decided to do something about this and called a meeting for the community to explore whether they could run their own service. Seventy-five people turned up at the first meeting. A team of five formed a committee and the Bo’ness and Area Community Bus Association (BACBA) was formed. They now provide two scheduled daily return trips into Edinburgh every Monday to Friday on a sixteen-seater minibus operating under a Section 22 permit.

Rab emphasises that the times of the journeys were arranged in response to community needs. The timetable has been carefully designed in consultation with the community, to suit people who want to go to Edinburgh for many different reasons including hospital appointments, social visits, education or employment.

Having commenced operations at the start of May 2017, the BACBA is still in its early days. The committee view this time as a trial period which allows them to learn how the bus works best, review their operations and make any amendments necessary to ensure that the Bo’ness Bus is fully in sync with the community it serves. Already they have achieved good success, with a steady flow of passengers and several days when the bus has been fully booked on each journey. Helen explains that people in the community are delighted that their transport needs are finally being heeded and that someone is paying attention to them.

Rab and Helen explained that the Bo’ness Bus has three main objectives: to facilitate social inclusion for those members of the community who find themselves isolated by recent cuts to public transport; to overcome barriers to employment for people living in the Bo’ness area; and to encourage visitors from Edinburgh to come to Bo’ness and the surrounding area.

However the benefits of the bus extend beyond the journeys it provides. Rab notes that the bus is already a source of community pride. It is community-owned and community-inspired, and it represents a joint endeavour which exists to make peoples’ everyday lives easier. The project has also brought together members of the community who previously didn’t know each other. Helen described the community atmosphere on the bus, where new friendships are made and cheerful conversations characterise the journeys. Bus driver Graeme Turton says that one of his favourite aspects of the job is hearing what people have done with their time in Edinburgh, whether going to a museum, a show, visiting friends or going shopping.

While they acknowledge that there were a few moments when they feared that the project might never be viable, Rab and Helen demonstrate the determination and creative problem-solving which characterise the community transport sector. The BACBA team have addressed the problem of funding by pursuing support from multiple sources and forging a range of partnerships to create a funding pot. Rab explains that the financial support from Falkirk Council was particularly important in getting the project off the ground, as was the start-up funding from First Port for social entrepreneurs. CTA and a neighbouring community transport operator helped with guidance and advice in setting up the service.

It’s clear that they have big plans for the future too – ideas currently under discussion include an early morning and evening service which would serve members of the Bo’ness community who need to commute into the city for work. The BACBA team have also received permission from the Traffic Commissioner to start weekend services, which they plan to begin in August in time for the Edinburgh Festival.

While the BACBA is off to a strong start, there are still challenges ahead. Rab and Helen are clear that they want to keep working to make sure that the bus service is sustainable. To do this, they emphasise the importance of using word of mouth within the community to make sure that everyone knows about the service. The BACBA team have found that once a person uses the bus for the first time, they are likely to become returning customers.

Bus driver Graeme is invaluable in this aspect. After completing a journey, he often jumps out of the bus at the Bo’ness station and chats with local people, explaining the function of the new bus and inviting people to try it for themselves. His enthusiasm and genuine care for the community exemplify the personalised service which makes community transport so special. As many of the Bo’ness Bus passengers are concession card holders, this extra personal service is important in helping people feel welcome and safe when using the bus.

Rab adds that it is also important to think big and be imaginative about the ways in which the bus can be used to serve the local community. The Bus recently began to welcome groups of walkers from Edinburgh, who use the service to access the John Muir Way at Blackness, which is a stopping point for the service. Without the Bo’ness Bus, they would have to travel separately by car to start their walk. Thus the bus provides a more environmentally-friendly, and more social, way for walking groups to access the beauty of the Scottish countryside. For people who live in Blackness, the Bo’ness Bus provides transportation right from their doorsteps into Edinburgh.

While the Bo’ness Bus project is still in its early days, the sense of excitement for the future is obvious when talking with Helen, Rab and Graeme. The BACBA team are all determined to ensure that the Bo’ness Bus is a success for the community. As Helen explains, the Bo’ness Bus is all about getting what a town needs and answering the needs of real people in real communities.