AROUND 500 volunteers are helping people get about in Nottinghamshire -- by driving for community transport schemes across the county.
Helping to deliver transport services in areas of the county where no alternative exists, Community Transport in Nottinghamshire has grown steadily since the 1980s.
More than 15 million passenger journeys are made by community transport providers each year, including nearly 120,000 in Nottinghamshire, helping vulnerable and isolated people to reach essential services, including shopping and social activities.
Nottinghamshire County Council currently provides nearly £250,000 of grant aid a year to support such schemes and in the past year over £100,000 of additional government funding has helped increase capacity and provide more services targeted at vulnerable people.
The growth in the community transport sector has been matched by continuous improvement in quality and safety standards including the introduction in 1996 of the Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme, training for which is now a pre-requisite for drivers of all minibus schemes receiving funding from the Council.
Vehicles also have to comply with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) regulations and, since 1997, more stringent driver licensing requirements mean that most drivers now require a D1 minibus driving licence.
In addition, the 1985 Transport Act set out regulations including the introduction of permits which enable non-profit making organisations to provide transport for hire and reward. This is complemented by driver and passenger safety training, quality standards and good practice guidelines.
“We use community minibus provider Our Centre to get people to our falls prevention exercise classes,” said Donna Chadwick, of Ashfield District Council’s falls prevention team.
“The passengers are frail and elderly and the drivers are always extremely polite and courteous, offering help onto the bus and help with seatbelts and walking aids.
They also take passengers who use wheelchairs. I have no hesitation recommending this excellent service.”