Can you help keep others on the move? The NCTA needs you

Carl Plant and his Kickstart moped. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Carl Plant and his Kickstart moped. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A clarion call today goes out to you – can you be a community transport volunteer?

Spending cuts and rural isolation mean the sector is becoming increasingly crucial to vulnerable and lonely people, particularly in rural parts of Norfolk.

But it is short of volunteers: people who can give up a little bit of time to provide a lot of joy and encouragement to needy people.

Today, the EDP launches a three-day series to reveal the story of how community transport has grown.

It begins with the plea by Norfolk Community Transport Association (NCTA) to people to step forward and support the sector, which is coming under increasing pressure.

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Chairman Diana Staines said: 'Community transport truly does provide a lifeline to so many people within the Norfolk area who, without access to the transport provided by these voluntary groups, would face a real risk of isolation, deprivation or a reduction in the quality of their lives.

'Community transport supports a diverse range of people from the elderly to the young, through to those with disabilities and those just needing to visit family and friends.

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'The reality now is many communities across Norfolk would no longer be sustainable without community transport services, however nearly all the groups are coming under increasing demands for their service and, as such, now urgently need more help in terms of manpower and vital funding.'

People in East Anglia are among the most likely in the country to face transport poverty, which means people's quality of life is being adversely affected as they have no access to transport due to age, rural isolation, accessibility or physical and mental disability.

Community operators across the county provide a range of transport services to all people to attend medical appointments, go shopping, attend group outings and activities, pay bills and to socialise.

NCTA works as a collective voice for community transport providers and champions the vital work of the sector across Norfolk.

Carl's success story

For 19-year-old Carl Plant, finding a job when he left college proved a difficult experience.

Living in the village of Stanfield, he found that local job vacancies all required experience and the jobs which did not require experience were further away – and he had no transport to get therem even if he was employed.

'It was a very frustrating experience,' said Carl. 'When I went to college in King's Lynn, I was hoping to join the police but they were not recruiting at that time. When I left, I thought I'd try labouring for a while. I obtained my CSCS (Construction Skills Certificate Scheme) card and was offered some work by an agency. The job was in Swaffham and I had five days work over a three-week period. My mum gave me a lift but it was not ideal.'

Then, through Jobcentre, he was offered a four-week work placement with Kinnerton, the confectioners in Fakenham, seven miles away. It looked as though the distance might again be an issue but that was when Carl was told about Kickstart, the community transport charity which loans mopeds to people to get to work, training or education.

'It really was the answer to my prayers. For £35 a week, I took possession of a 50cc moped, enabling me to say 'yes' to the work-placement offer.

'After the four weeks, I was offered a permanent job which entitled me to upgrade to a 110cc moped for an extra £10 a week. It costs me £5 to fill it up which lasts me the week, so for £50 I can get to work and back.

'Without Kickstart's help, the job placement, let alone the job, would have remained out of reach. It's given me a chance to get on the job ladder and I'm now saving up for a car.

'It's a brilliant scheme and made all the difference to me,' he said.

Community transport services available in Norfolk include:

Community car schemes –Volunteers drive their own cars to transport passengers who are often unable to travel by other means;

Group transport – Some community transport groups hire out vehicles – often accessible minibuses – and drivers to take the members of not-for-profit voluntary groups on trips;

Door-to-door dial-a-ride services –These are services for individuals who cannot, or find it difficult to, use or access mainstream transport services. People are usually picked up from their homes and dropped off at their destination such as the doctor or the shopping centre;

Contracted services – These are home-to-school, non-emergency patient or social care transport services, operated under contract to local authorities, schools or other bodies;

Wheels to Work – Here scooters are loaned to geographically isolated people (often young people) to enable them to get to work, apprenticeships or training;

Community bus services – Demand-responsive or fixed route transport services, available to the public, operating where commercial bus routes are not viable;

Vehicle brokerage – Community transport organisations manage the sharing of a number of vehicles owned by several organisations in order to maximise the services that can be delivered;

Shopmobility – The loan or hire of wheelchairs and mobility scooters to allow people with impaired mobility to get around the shops when they visit local towns.

• See tomorrow's EDP for another example of how community transport makes a real difference in people's lives – and details on all the schemes run in the county.

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