CTA Members’ Corner: What difference can a minibus make?
by Helen Brown
Campaign & Grants Manager, Beacon Centre
We all know a minibus gets passengers from point A to B, but what else can it do? Well, it turns out it can change someone’s life too.
At the Beacon Centre for the Blind, we were delighted to be a part of the Community Transport Association’s Tackling Loneliness Project because we knew that transport could be the driving force for long-term change for the people we support impacted by sight loss.
Our transport service has been supporting vulnerable people to get around for a decade. However, the wheels somewhat came off during the Covid-19 pandemic when we had to switch our services from in-person to virtual overnight.
As things slowly began to open up again, we knew it would take longer for our members, among those most at risk from Coronavirus due to their age and health conditions, to find the confidence to rejoin the world.
It was a significance of the tackling loneliness project. Our members told us they were keen to visit our centre and their communities. However, they wanted to do so safely and securely.
So, we applied for funding from the CTA to bring our members back to our centre in a Covid-19-friendly way but also get them out and about with a new programme that allowed them to try new activities such as swimming and tandem biking in small groups with their peers, led by our expert team.
It was a huge success. In July 2022, when we started the project, we had 46 service users, and as of May 2023, we had 95 registered users and completed around 10 group bookings.
One of the main driving forces behind the increase has been the introduction of our community activity programme, which has seen us run up to a dozen sessions in our local area each month. However, we also reviewed the service, creating criteria to help us assess people’s needs, focusing on building independence and essentially reducing the risk of any feelings of loneliness.
We also introduced new marketing, redesigning our transport service webpage, and promoting the service on social media, all completed following CTA peer support sessions.
What difference has it made? It has been life-changing for many people who have been able to rejoin the world again. In the words of one of our members: “Beacon Transport is a lifeline for me; without the transport team, I would be isolated and wouldn’t have the opportunity to get out of the house independently.”
Looking forward, we want to continue the growth in our transport service and help even more people who may be stuck at home with life passing them by. To help us achieve that, we’ve recruited our first bus buddy volunteer and are transporting people to even more places, including a local farm, to launch our first animal care community course.
We wouldn’t have gotten to this stage without the support of the CTA, driving our growth, and we’d like to thank everyone involved in the project for their support, advice and guidance.
Community Transport Association UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Cardiff no. 1985361 Registered office: 12 Hilton Street M1 1JF. Registered as a charity in England and Wales no. 1002222. Charity Registered in Scotland No. SC038518.