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On The Road

On The Road

Community Car Share Schemes/Good Neighbour Groups

I can’t hear the term, ‘Car Share’ without thinking of Peter Kay’s BBC sitcom of the same name (put it on your DVD wish-list, its hilarious). However, with the urgent need for more car sharing, transport schemes and Good Neighbour groups is not so amusing. Our elderly population is increasing, and many people have mobility issues for a variety of reasons. The need for low cost reliable door-to-door transport is a growing concern.

For those of us who have our own transport, it can be easy to take for granted the ready convenience of jumping into a car and getting where we need to go without a second thought. Yet to those who don’t have this luxury, life can be a real struggle. Getting to hospital and doctors’ appointments, shopping trips, visiting family and friends, attending regular clubs and social events – all these activities are an intrinsic part of everyday life and with many elderly people becoming more isolated and house-bound such outings are an essential means of helping them to feel they are still a valued part of society.

Unfortunately, in March of this year funding for the borough’s ‘Dial-a-Ride’ and ‘Buses for You’ service ended, and these two schemes have reduced their provision to shopping-only trips at a cost of £50 per year for subscribers. In addition to this, the council also provides a taxi voucher service; allocation is limited but based on an application process for those residents that are in most need. This situation of dwindling resources has put more onus on the voluntary sector to step-in and provide transport and assistance for residents in need, and some community groups and charities are already doing this. However, more schemes are needed borough-wide as towns like Horley and Reigate have nothing in place.

‘Councils for Voluntary Service’ (CVS) is a body which exists to serve voluntary, community and faith groups in their work. CVS can provide a wide range of services to support organisations and groups, including funding advice, training and information on areas like human resources and finance. A meeting was held in June with representatives of the Borough Council, CVS and charities like Merstham Neighbours and Surrey Community Action with a view to developing new independent voluntary car share schemes/Good Neighbour groups in the borough. Vicki Turton from Surrey Community Action is heading up this project and she would appreciate hearing from any RH Uncovered readers who have relevant ideas and/or resources, or who would like to be involved in getting a scheme off the ground. They need local people for decision-making committees in their neighbourhood.

It’s very early days yet and these plans will take time to formulate and put into practice, however, it is hoped that more schemes will be up and running within next 18 months or so; and it’s important that they are – to many people they are a lifeline. As a grateful recipient of the Merstham Neighbours transport scheme once told them: ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t know where I’d be without your service. Please don’t stop – you mustn’t give up’.

For more information contact Vicki Turton at Surrey Community Action: Email:
Taxi vouchers: Email:

By Sarah Ballingal

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