Ealing Community Transport (ECT) is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation. We do this by enabling people who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes, whether for a shopping trip, a health check-up, or a day out with friends.
We also believe in collaboration – and we are always keen to find new partnerships where our little green buses can make a big difference. In our latest Journey Makers story, we shine a light on one such partnership in Ealing, where our shared aims would not be possible to achieve without working together.
What do a community centre, a little green bus and the new concept of ‘social prescribing’ have in common?
They are all part of the latest partnership in Ealing to help combat loneliness among elderly people.
Loneliness and isolation not only have a direct effect on individuals’ health and wellbeing, but also impose a significant cost to the public purse. ECT’s research shows that in Ealing alone, these costs could reach £10m a year.
At Age UK Ealing’s Day Centre in Greenford, elderly visitors can relax with friends, eat freshly cooked meals and participate in activities like bingo or gentle exercise. They are often referred to the centre by their family or by a local GP who appreciates the positive impact of ‘prescribing’ non-clinical services offered within the community.
But having a place to socialise is no use if you don’t have the means to get there – and this is where ECT is able to help.
Currently, more than 20 people use ECT’s special transport service to get to the centre, and back home again, with several of them going twice or even three times a week. For some, it is the only opportunity they have all week to leave their homes and socialise.
Age UK Ealing’s interim CEO, Carrie Sage, comments: “It’s horrifying to see how isolated some older people are, even in our little part of London. They are left dangling without any support. When people visit us, we make sure there is a really good atmosphere for everyone. It brings together a diverse group of people with a diverse group of needs.”
Carrie describes ECT as “the linchpin” to making the centre work. “If we didn’t have community transport to bring people here, the centre wouldn’t function,” she says.
“We get little notes the whole time, usually from family members saying, ‘You have no idea how much mum enjoys coming out to the centre’. That’s not just a reflection of the fact that there is a brilliant environment when they get there, it’s because ECT drivers are fabulous and take great care of their passengers.”
Carrie explains that it’s not just the drivers’ friendly and caring approach that is appreciated, but also the role they play in passing on important information: “One of the drivers might say, ‘Did you know so-and-so wasn’t feeling so great this morning?’ or tell us if they are worried about somebody – so there is a really good throughput of information, which can be critical to providing people with the support they need in terms of health and wellbeing.”
As well as the regular transport to the centre, the charities have also worked together to organise some more adventurous journeys – including a recent trip to see a pantomime, followed by afternoon tea.
“It was a brilliant day,” says Carrie. “These trips and outings are opportunities for ECT and Age UK Ealing to work together more closely. We both appreciate the importance of each other’s work, and I’m keen to grow our partnership further.”
Anna Whitty, ECT’s Chief Executive, says the feeling is mutual: “The transport partnership with Age UK Ealing is a brilliant example of ‘social prescribing’, with two charities working together to create a solution within the local community. It’s about using our different but complementary skills to deliver our shared aims.
“We are always excited to explore opportunities for collaboration where we can combine our energy and expertise to make a difference to the people and communities we serve.”
Read more about the transport services we offer in Ealing here.