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Expanding community transport scheme appeals for more drivers in Llangollen

South Denbighshire Community Partnership’s transport team, from left, Tom Taylor, Maggie Harding and volunteer driver Bob Jaques.

A successful Denbighshire community transport scheme is appealing for volunteer drivers as it continues its expansion into Llangollen.

South Denbighshire Community Partnerships not-for-profit scheme is travelling further afield as it helps elderly and vulnerable people to get out and about.

As part of an exciting £500,000 three-year initiative SDCP have extended their services along the Dee Valley to Llangollen and its surrounding villages from its base in Corwen.

The partnerships social inclusion services include a dial-a-ride facility, luncheon club, meals-on-wheels, leisure excursions and shopping trips.

But a bigger area means more drivers are needed to keep the charity’s fleet of six grant-funded vehicles busy so it has launched an appeal for volunteers to join the loyal pool of 18 drivers who donate their time each week.

South Denbighshire Community Partnership transport co-ordinator for Corwen and Llangollen Maggie Harding said: All our drivers are volunteers and they are our lifeblood. Without them generously giving up their time we wouldn’t be able to run any services.

As of now we have 18 volunteers but five operate the daily meals on wheels and only six of our pool have the documentation to drive the mini-bus.

Now we’ve a larger area to cover we really need more volunteers to help us reach people in outlying villages with limited transport.

If anyone has a couple of hours to spare on a morning or afternoon any day of the week, wed love to hear from them.

The more drivers were able to call on, the more comprehensive services we can offer across our bigger area.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer driver can call Maggie on 01490 266004.

Maggie added: Many service users live in rural locations where public transport is not a viable option for them to attend local events, social gatherings or even get to clinic and hospital appointments.

“It’s our mission to get them where they need to be via as smooth-running an operation as possible.

It’s our aim to reduce social isolation among community members who struggle to get out and assist them to participate fully in community activities.

SDCP say there has never been a greater need for the service which has adapted to continue its service even at the height of lockdown.

Pre-pandemic, drivers ferried people to destinations in dedicated vehicles, but in lockdown they couldn’t take passengers so they delivered prescriptions, shopping and activity packs instead.

Bob Jaques became a driver just before the pandemic struck. He said: Many of our usual activities had to be stopped due to social distancing but we managed to adapt.

“I and several other drivers would pick up and deliver prescriptions for people using our own cars. We’d drop them off ensuring there was the required distance between us and each recipient.”

Now Bob is happy to be back driving people around in the community fleet and he said: I recently took out a lady in a wheelchair with her daughter carer. She’d been shielding for 16 months unable to go anywhere.

“It was quite emotional seeing their delight at finally getting out. Thats why we became volunteers – to bring people together, help them overcome mobility issues and let them know they’re all valued members or our community.

Maggie said take up of Meals on Wheels soared during lockdown as the Luncheon Club in Canolfan Ni, Corwen, had to close and they have delivered 4,000 meals in the Corwen area since the start of lockdown.

Services are returning as pandemic restrictions ease though some social distancing measures remain.

The Luncheon Club is back up and running but wider spacing of tables means it can only cater for 15 diners instead of the pre-pandemic 40 while the 14-seater mini-bus is only carrying a maximum of seven people.

Tom Taylor, SDCP Strategic Implementation Officer, said: Our entire organisation pulled together to inject flexibility into our usual operations. We continued to communicate with users and provide the most assistance possible even at the peak of lockdown.

The fact that we’re now extending our boundaries into Llangollen is another big achievement which we’re all very excited about.

They have adopted dial-a-ride from the Rotary Club in Dee Valley and he said: “This is a lifeline for many residents particularly in outlying villages so we absorbed it and are working hard to provide a comprehensive service for all those who need it in both areas.

“More volunteer drivers would help us meet every user’s needs but meantime its all hands to the pump to minimise social isolation and make sure the vulnerable know we’re here for them.

The Llangollen area merger means the community transport scheme acquired an extra vehicle, a smart wheelchair-accessible Vauxhall Caddy.

Maggie said: Its named Brian after Brian Evans, the Rotarian who inspired Rotary to establish the dial-a-ride service in Llangollen. We aim to get it made-over like our others into South Denbighshire Community Partnership livery.

They also transferred a Toyota Rav electric-petrol hybrid from Dee Valley, originally funded by the National Lottery and have christened her Tanya.

The others include Percy – a Peugeot Partner funded by the Morrisons Foundation, with an oven and fridge compartment for meals on wheels prepared in Canolfan Ni Community Centre kitchens by a catering team and delivered to registered customers five days a week.

For dial-a-ride requests the team use two electric vehicles Morgan the MG Excite, funded by the National Lottery, and Neli the Nissan Leaf, funded by Cadwyn Clwyd.

These ferry people into town for hospital or GP appointments, to hairdressers, group exercise sessions, meetings run by MIND, organised social events, or just to visit friends. Membership is £15 per person annually plus a token running costs charge for each journey.

Maggie said: We also have our marvellous Citroen Relay mini-bus, Bryn, administered by Denbighshire County Council, which can also take a wheelchair.

“We use it to bring residents from Edeyrnion to twice-weekly lunch clubs, a weekly shopping trip, picking up and dropping them off at people’s front doors to take them to local stores in Llangollen.

“The mini-bus is also used for excursions. Trips so far have included to Llandudno and Barmouth, with others planned later in the season if the pandemic rules allow.

The bus is a huge community asset. Ideally we could do with two or better still, three.

The Community Transport Schemes services are now well established in the Edeyrnion area covering Corwen and the villages of Cynwyd, Carrog, Llandrillo, Llidiart y Parc, Glyndyfrdwy, Betws Gwerfyl Goch, Melin y Wig, Gwyddelwern and Brynegwlys.

Now the scheme has pushed further into Dee Valley it also covers Llangollen and neighbouring villages of Pentredwr, Pengwern, Eglwyseg, Llantysilio and Rhewl.