Councillors from Ealing’s Transport Scrutiny Panel spent an afternoon travelling on an ECT bus, and found out how community transport can reduce effects of loneliness.
While ECT Charity has long been campaigning to raise awareness of loneliness and its devastating impact (see the 2016 Why Transport Matters publication), the introduction of a Minister for Loneliness in January shows that the rest of the UK is now waking up to the huge costs of social isolation.
In Ealing, where a community transport intervention has been calculated to reduce an estimated £10 million cost of loneliness by £4 million, members of local government are turning to organisations like ECT for solutions. In their roles as Chair and Vice-Chair of a Scrutiny Panel on transport in Ealing, the ‘Panel 4 on Transport’, Councillors Kamaljit Nagpal and Joanna Dabrowska spent an afternoon travelling on ECT’s usual Thursday route. The day would provide a background for their assessment of the Ealing Travel Support Strategy, a review which Anna Whitty, CEO at ECT would be attending as an expert witness.
Regular PlusBus passengers Roy and Susie were the first to be collected. The PlusBus is a service for individuals unable to use any other form of transport, who are often the most vulnerable in a community. Riding back from their weekly shop, both Roy and Susie told the Councillors that ECT is a lifeline for them – with Roy adding that without it, he “wouldn’t go out”. The Councillors also witnessed the necessity of the PlusBus’ door-to-door service when Roy, who struggles with balance, was assisted on the tricky journey to his front door with the help of John Bradley, one of ECT’s most experienced drivers.
Next stop was Hanwell’s Hobbayne Centre, where ECT collected Dementia Concern passengers from their weekly activity group. This journey was an example of ECT’s group transport services, which provides travel for voluntary and community services and works without subsidy. The Councillors were struck by passengers’ smiling faces, and their clear appreciation for the opportunity to attend activities and socialise.
John from Dementia Concern told them:
“Without ECT, we would not be able to provide our Thursday group. Our clients love the ride as it triggers memories from the past, and the driver often takes the scenic route to make the journey that much more special.”
Through meeting passengers like these, Councillors Nagpal and Dabrowska witnessed the realities and benefits of community transport for vulnerable members of the community. On feeding back to the Transport Scrutiny Panel, Councillor Nagpal told members that it had been “quite an amazing experience; a privilege”, and both tweeted the below:
“A wonderful afternoon spent with @ECT_Charity seeing the amazing work they do providing community transport services, and meeting their passengers, some of them can only leave their house because of the door to door service ECT provides.” (Councillor Nagpal)
“Spoke to service users who commented that the transport service is a godsend & lifesaver to ensure they get out & about as well as be part of the community.” (Councillor Dabrowska)
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive at ECT, said:
“We were delighted to welcome members from the Scrutiny Panel on our bus. By experiencing the routes first hand and meeting our passengers, the Councillors discovered how community transport ends isolation for many, and could reduce the Borough’s high costs of loneliness. As an expert witness at the Panel I also took the opportunity to call on the wider Ealing council to help identify lonely and isolated people stuck at home, who would benefit from door-to-door transport.”