Community Transport ‘lifeline’ for Cotswolds’ isolated and rural passengers is expanding

by Joanna Hammond

Community Transport ‘lifeline’ for Cotswolds’ isolated and rural passengers is expanding

A service that provides transport to older and vulnerable passengers in the Cotswolds, including those in rural areas, is making more than 12,000 passenger journeys annually – and is now expanding further.

Cotswold Friends’ Community Transport Service takes people to healthcare and medical appointments, on practical journeys like shopping trips, and social trips like visits to see friends and family.

Over 1,700 members use the charity’s service, which covers the North Cotswolds and Cirencester, and it is now expanding into the Fairford and Lechlade area to provide transport for social and practical journeys.

Over 400 members currently use the service in Cirencester and its surrounding villages.

Jo Hammond, CEO of Cotswold Friends, said: “As everyone who lives in the Cotswolds knows, getting out and about can, at times, be challenging.

“We may have beautiful rural geography, but we also have lots of small, highly dispersed villages and very limited public transport, which forces many of us to depend upon our cars.

“If you factor in the loss of a driving licence due to disability and/or age, failing eyesight, limited mobility or the onset of dementia – conditions which affect many of us as we get older – getting out and about becomes even harder.”

Cotswold Friends’ Community Transport service could not operate without the support of more than 90 volunteer drivers that use their own cars, and a dedicated team of volunteer bookings desk operators who take telephone and drop-in bookings.

Keith Baalham, a volunteer driver for the charity in Cirencester, says: “I was interested in becoming a volunteer for Cotswold Friends because I wanted something to do in my spare time and to help the community.

“In terms of how volunteering has been helpful to me, at my age, it’s not about the practical benefits but the pleasure of helping others and, in so doing, meeting new people.

“What I enjoy about volunteering for the charity is working with people, plus it’s practical, it’s flexible and it’s interesting.”

The demand for the service, which is open to anyone who is not able to drive or finds public transport difficult to use, is growing rapidly and Cotswold Friends needs more drivers.

Jo continues: “We are just about to launch our Community Transport Service in a new area for us, Fairford and Lechlade, and are currently on the lookout for volunteer drivers in that location.

“We’ll be providing transport for practical and social journeys, working in partnership with Friends of Fairford & Lechlade Communities, who already provide medical trips such as GP and hospital visits.”

The charity also has a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, Weston, which can be booked through its Community Transport Service in the usual way and is available to passengers living in the North Cotswolds.

Weston can carry one person seated in a wheelchair plus three additional passengers. It also has an adapted front passenger seat that swivels, making access easier.

Jo says: “If you know anyone that could make use of Weston, perhaps for a social trip out with friends and family or for medical and practical appointments, please let them know about this service.”

Cotswold Friends’ Community Transport Service Bookings Desk is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 3.30pm, Tel: 01608 651115 or email [email protected].

For more information, contact Louise Lapworth, Marketing Manager, email [email protected].

Could you spare a few hours a week to be a volunteer driver? Or do you know someone that might be interested in volunteering as a driver and getting paid up to 50p per mile? If so, get in touch with Cotswold Friends on 01608 697007 or email [email protected].

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