The past year has impacted on how we all travel and it’s been no different for community transport operators in Devon.
East Teignbridge Community Transport Association (CTA), based in Dawlish, has praised its staff and volunteers for their dedication in helping local people to attend essential appointments.
However, the service has also demonstrated that it does more than simply provide transport. It is one of 12 organisations that has been supporting the community under the ‘Helping Dawlish’ initiative with food deliveries. It has also been keeping in touch with its passengers to assist them during lockdown, whether that’s through helping them join a befriending service or arranging a delivery of fish and chips as a “wellbeing gesture”.
The charity’s Ring and Ride service had to stop during the initial lockdown but resumed again in August with reduced numbers of only six per minibus, instead of the usual 16. Since the start of the current lockdown in January it’s only been able to carry passengers for essential shopping trips.
East Teignbridge CTA is currently busy taking people to vaccination appointments, and in recent weeks it’s also been able to transport people to visit family in care homes.
Sally Preston, of East Teignbridge CTA, said: “It’s been a really hard year. We’ve been working with a very much reduced team but we’ve been able to continue throughout the whole pandemic. No-one anticipated it would go on this long.
“We’ve always known the good work our volunteers do and the community has seen that throughout this period. The feedback we get from passengers is that it’s not just about getting them to their appointments, it’s as much about the journey with our drivers and the empathy and compassion shown to them. Passengers value that.
“Without our volunteers we wouldn’t have got through this and we will be looking to recruit more – hopefully more people will want to be part of that with us. This pandemic has shown that we all need to work together.
“The greatest impact has been the loss of the social side from the Ring and Ride, including trips out, and that affects people’s mental wellbeing. Some passengers haven’t been out that much and their mobility and confidence has changed, so we’re trying to ascertain if their needs have changed. We’ve had an increase in wheelchair users but all of our vehicles are adapted to accommodate all.”
Last year, the East Teignbridge CTA received a £3,000 grant from Devon County Council’s Prompt Action Fund, to support the cost of vehicle maintenance and fuel, as well as PPE equipment and vehicle sanitisation to help people attend essential medical appointments. It has since gained additional support from the County Council, and other funding sources including Teignbridge District Council and the National Lottery.
Its vehicle fleet had reduced from 10 to five vehicles over the past 12 months, but it has now been gifted a vehicle, received lottery funding to purchase another car, as well as being given a donation to purchase a wheelchair to specifically use in its vehicles.
“We’re looking positively to the future and will be looking to wider funding opportunities,” added Sally. “We’re always ready to support the community and we’re looking forward to helping people get back out in the community as restrictions are lifted.”
For more information visit the East Teignbridge Community Transport Association website.