TEN community minibus groups in Wiltshire and Swindon will each get a brand new minibus thanks to the Department for Transport.
The Community Transport Minibus Fund, totalling £25 million, was announced in December 2014 by the Department for Transport. It was set up to help rural community minibus groups provide essential transport services for older people, those with disabilities and for those without access to public transport.
The successful groups were supported in their applications by Community First, the Rural Community Council for Wiltshire, which provides support and advice to 20 community minibus groups across Wiltshire and Swindon. The Community Transport team at Community First compiled written guidance on applying for the fund and provided a sample application form with notes on completing each section.
The successful community minibus groups are: The Combine Bus, Trowbridge Guild of Community Services, Swindon Dial a Ride, Tisbus, Melksham Council of Community Services, Wessex Community Action, Community Transport South Wiltshire, Chippenham & District Transport for the Disabled, South Wilts Mencap and Sunflowers Nursery at East Grafton.
Liam Tatton-Bennett, Community Transport Manager at Community First, said this is great news for local people:
“This is a real boost for these groups as purchasing a new minibus can be a real problem, especially for small groups. In Wiltshire, we have a thriving community transport sector, often small and very local, with many groups run by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. These groups take people to medical appointments, enable older and disabled people to reach the shops, transport children to school, run bus routes and provide transport for a range of clubs, community groups and care homes.”
James Scott Clarke, Chair of Tisbus, which provides community transport services in Tisbury and surrounding areas, said the new bus will be a real boost for local people in the area.
“Our charitable work provides a door-to-door service to shops, hospitals, community activities and GP surgeries for people who might otherwise be isolated or trapped in their own homes due to lack of public transport or mobility issues,” he said.
“It is a real boost to us to get a brand new bus which we would otherwise have to invest a great deal of volunteer time in to raise the funds for. This will allow us to increase our capacity on the days when we need more places or when our other buses need repairs. The new bus will also give us increased flexibility and will be more wheelchair-friendly, making journeys more pleasurable and accessible for some of our members.
“We are very grateful to Community First for their support with this – they have been very helpful in interpreting Department for Transport regulations and have done a good job for us.”
The 20 community minibus groups supported by Community First across Wiltshire and Swindon are supported by approximately 330 volunteers, who act as drivers, booking secretaries, committee members, co-ordinators and bus cleaners. The groups drive a combined total of 363,970 miles over the year, with a total of 197,992 passenger trips (an average of nearly 9,900 trips per group per year).
Community First is a registered charity and a private company limited by guarantee. With the aim of strengthening communities, growing communities and tackling disadvantage across Wiltshire and Swindon, it provides technical advice, practical support and grant aid to promote local initiatives. Community First also manages countywide programmes bringing benefits to local people, informing and influencing policy makers in the development of rural policies and practices.
Community First is at Unit C2, Beacon Business Centre, Hopton Park, Devizes, SN10 2EY; telephone 01380 732821.