Community

Prompt Action Fund helps community transport passengers

Photo of a community transport passenger being wheeled into a vehicle

Posted on: 8 June 2020

Community transport providers have not been immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but they have continued to play a crucial role to ensure people can access vital services.

With the help of a £3,000 grant from Devon County Council’s Prompt Action Fund, East Teignbridge Community Transport Association, based in Dawlish, has helped ensure local people in their area have been able to attend essential medical appointments.

The service has also been one of 12 organisations that has been supporting the community under the ‘Helping Dawlish’ initiative with food deliveries and collections to the wider community.

There are around 50 volunteers in the East Teignbridge CTA team, but the vast majority have been having to shield during the pandemic – leaving the association with problems of its own to work around.

With just seven drivers available during lockdown and social distancing measures to consider, it has meant the charity has had to change the way it works. However, it has remained committed to helping people travel to essential medical appointments, as well as caring for the wellbeing of local people who would usually be regular passengers.

Sally Preston, of the East Teignbridge CTA, said: “We said to all of our volunteers over the age of 70, or those who care for someone vulnerable at home, ‘please do not drive’. We then had to consider how we could still operate.

“We haven’t been able to operate any of our other usual services during this time, but we have adapted to help the community.

“Passengers were desperately needing to get to appointments, but they didn’t feel able to go on public transport when shielding, if they’re a cancer patient for example. The priority has been driving patients to appointments so we needed to keep the car scheme going, ensuring social distancing in the best way we can.

“The CTA has also had to adapt in other ways. One of our Trustees is calling all of the charity’s passengers to make sure they are OK. If they need any help they are being connected to the Helping Dawlish programme.”

Since the start of lockdown, the East Teignbridge CTA has helped more than 80 passengers make essential journeys to hospitals, GP practices and respite care transfers. The funding from the Prompt Action Fund has supported the cost of vehicle maintenance and fuel, as well as PPE equipment and vehicle sanitisation to ensure safety and wellbeing of community members.

Among those who have been helped is Chris, a local resident who broke his ankle and required wheelchair transportation to get to hospital appointments for regular check-ups. Without the help of the Community Transport Association he would not have been able to get there.

Chris said: “They have been a life saver to me. For someone usually independent and able, it came as a real shock. I live alone and it hasn’t been easy. I usually travel by public transport but was unable to do this due to the accident and the current pandemic. I couldn’t get into a taxi or afford it each time with so many appointments ahead and needed greater support. The driver has been very professional, helping as best he can in the circumstances, he wore gloves and a mask, and the vehicle was sanitised; very reassuring and supportive.”

Photo of Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Community Transport schemes are an important lifeline to thousands of people right across Devon and the team at the East Teignbridge CTA has been extremely proactive in helping their local community during this pandemic. They have used their grant from the Prompt Action Fund to great effect and I’m pleased to see the Fund making such a positive difference. Although they haven’t been able to call on many of their usual volunteers, they have ensured that people have managed to get to vital appointments, and connected people to other support. A big thank you to the East Teignbridge CTA for their sterling efforts throughout this difficult time.”

The East Teignbridge CTA has been using its four cars and minibuses as needed within its car scheme, helping people attend appointments. It aims to use only one vehicle for a return journey a day, they are then thoroughly cleaned and sanitised after each use and vented for as long as possible. Records are kept of all passengers travelling.

“We didn’t want people to decline an appointment because of a money issue and this funding has also helped provide a buffer if someone hasn’t been able to pay,” explained Sally. “We understand some people can’t make a contribution at the moment – they may not have cash, and we don’t take card payments.

“We’ve only got limited resources, so the grant from the Prompt Action Fund has made a massive difference. Without this additional support I’m not sure how many weeks we could have carried on. It’s enabled us to say to people that we can provide a car and help people who might otherwise not be able to travel if we weren’t still running.”

For more information on the East Teignbridge Community Transport Association go to www.dawlish-mobility.co.uk.

To find out more about the scheme on our COVID-19 Prompt Action Fund webpages.

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