Season’s greetings to everyone, wherever you may be.
In so many ways it is hard to focus on the positives as we head toward the end of 2021. It is a year many will be keen to forget. Without doubt there have been exceptionally difficult times. Few of us would have anticipated Christmas 2021 would be so similar to the disruption we faced in 2020. Too many of us have experienced personal loss or have struggled with all the uncertainty and ambiguity we have been forced to face. And as we turn to the new year, it is hard to do so with the positivity usually associated with the expectation we will be starting afresh.
But within everything that has happened I believe there is a lot for us to remain positive about.
This has been a year of significant change at ECT. In the midst of the pandemic Anna retired as CEO after so many years involved in the organisation, and I took on the role. But the strength of the team meant any potential risk during the transition simply never surfaced. Instead, it became an opportunity to improve the way the organisation works together – led by the board and senior team but involving everyone. The entire staff team may have stepped up whenever a need was identified during the lockdowns, but they also responded to changes to their roles, the needs of their passengers, and the need to deliver our services throughout the year with commitment and professionalism.
More widely, the support from all our clients has proven how important it is to build relationships to enable true partnership working. They have been open, willing to listen and supportive at all times. And ECT have made sure we returned the favour by trying to adapt and respond when some new obstacle appeared. The potential disconnectedness of home-working and on-line communication took some getting used to but also means getting to a meeting, and involving a wider audience, is now much easier. Our thanks go to them all and to our key contacts who have been absolute stars throughout all the confusion.
Similarly the network of charities we work with proves the impact we make together is much more than we could ever achieve as separate entities working separately. This is definitely the case with the many community transport organisations at a local and national level. As we all emerge from 2021 we are already talking of new ways to do more together, with new partnerships and a planned revision of our well-respected social value toolkit gaining a lot of interest.
Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone involved with ECT. And best wishes for this Christmas and may 2022 be a considerable improvement on 2021!
-- John Chesters, CEO
Have you got skills that could help build the future of the award-winning ECT Charity? Would you like to offer some of your time and expertise to help us grow the positive impact we are already making for thousands of people in our local communities in Ealing, Dorset and Cheshire?
ECT is looking for four new trustees who share our ambition to provide top-quality, safe, affordable and accessible transport services for every community we serve.
Our new CEO and dedicated Board of Trustees are forging exciting plans for the future, alongside our top-notch team of committed, professional managers, drivers, assistants and administrators. As new trustees, you will help steer our charity on the next stage of its important journey.
ECT has been providing journeys for our communities for over 30 years – but we are much more than just a bus service. We use transport to help people who may be a part of the growing loneliness epidemic, for example, in both urban and rural areas.
Whether it’s taking somebody for their weekly trip to the supermarket, a visit to the GP, a minibus for a local youth group, SEN school runs or a day out with friends and family – wherever people need a hand, we like to be there to help. We make journeys possible, across the communities we serve.
We are a ‘forward looking’ charity and recognise that the world in which we operate is changing. This means we are always keen to look at opportunities for innovation and working together; we know the value real partnership working can bring to help people combat their own issues.
It’s the difference we make to individuals and their families that really demonstrates our positive impact – but we have some pretty impressive facts and figures to share too:
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Patrick O’Keeffe comments:
“Thank you for taking an interest in joining ECT Charity as a Trustee. We believe that everyone has something to contribute to the community transport sector. This is a period of considerable change at ECT. We had a change of CEO in 2021 after more than 30 years and now we are looking at the ways we can improve the governance. With four of our trustees reaching the end of their nine-year terms, these are exciting times to join us. We are looking forward to taking on new people with new skills to face the challenges – and to be a part of ECT in our new era.”
CEO John Chesters comments:
“We are looking for four – or more – individuals who want to bring their skills to our Board of Trustees and build their skills with us. We don't mind where you come from, or what your level of experience might be. All we ask is that you want to be a part of our charity and are sure you would be the person who can help us make sense of the new world we are all facing. But most importantly, ensure we are still here, doing more for more people in the years to come.”
To find out more about being a trustee at ECT Charity, please email our CEO: email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
At ECT our primary concern is our passengers and our staff. That is why, even after the much-anticipated announcement there will be changes made to the advice and regulations around Covid and the use of face coverings etc. on the 19th July, we are not going to be relaxing our own approach to safety. It is heartening to see the Mayor of London take the same approach, and we support this view for all public transport.
We believe we need to remain vigilant. It is clear from the increase in cases, hospitalisations, and the very sad continuation in deaths attributable to Covid that we are still in a pandemic. Many people have not been vaccinated and even if they are, there are new variants, there is not an absolute end to the ability to transmit the virus, and there is no surety that someone vaccinated cannot become infected.
We deal with some of the most vulnerable people in society. Over the last 18 months or so, everyone at ECT has been totally focussed on providing support, but also ensuring we look after the safety of everyone we deal with. Passengers, other members of our staff team, and all those we come into contact with. It is unthinkable that we should suddenly decide we no longer need to give them due consideration.
ECT will therefore continue to retain the measures of face coverings, reduced numbers for social distancing and encourage hands, face, space as before on all our vehicles and in our premises. Anyone on our buses will be required to wear a face covering as this reduces the risk they will infect someone else and as wearing a face covering is such a simple line of protection. Clearly anyone with a medical condition or who has other legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering can simply explain this to our drivers or passenger assistants as before.
We trust that all our passengers will understand the reasons why we are taking this approach and thank them for their continued vigilance and support to ensure everyone involved with ECT is as safe as they can be.
ECT is “in a terrific place” to provide more support, develop new partnerships and expand our impact for local communities.
That’s the message from John Chesters as he takes up his position as new CEO at the charity, following the retirement of Anna Whitty in April.
“As we all emerge from the uncertainties and in far too many cases the personal grief of the last 12 months, I have little doubt that the need for ECT Charity is going to be greater than ever,” said John this week.
“Community Transport is so much more than just a physical journey. It is a lifeline, a connection to the outside world, and a route to an experience for many of the people we support.”
In a message to the charity’s team and partners across the three areas in which the charity operates in Ealing, Cheshire and Dorset, John said his aim “will not be to make great changes to the services we provide”.
He continued: “What we do is already exceptional and admired wherever it has impact, or wherever we become known. Our social value brings so much more than just a few pounds saved by a local authority.”
John paid tribute to the work of his predecessor Anna Whitty, saying she had “left ECT in great shape”.
He also praised the work of all the charity’s team during the Covid pandemic, keeping core services running but also stepping in with essential support such as food delivery and transport to vaccination centres.
As the pandemic subsides and the world readjusts, there would be new opportunities for ECT to “do more to help the communities we work with, but also to see what else we can bring to the places we work,” he said.
“ECT is exceptionally well positioned to help ensure we are there to provide support but also to develop new opportunities and partnerships to expand our impact. Because that is the culture of ECT – to go the extra mile.
“To say I am looking forward to the job is definitely an understatement. ECT is doing so much already, and it will be an honour to lead the charity as we enter our next phases.”
John officially started at ECT on 24th May, with deputy CEO Becky Casement having served as interim CEO after Anna Whitty retired at the end of April.
John was formerly CEO at Emmaus Hertfordshire, and also worked for a number of years with The Forward Trust (Blue Sky), supporting ex-offenders to find employment and in various operations focused roles. He also knows Ealing very well, having worked as General Manager for ECT Recycling between 2001 and 2006.
ECT Chair Patrick O’Keeffe commented: “We are delighted to welcome John as he takes up this key role at ECT. John will bring a wealth of experience to the organisation, including an excellent track record in the charity sector and extensive experience of working with local authorities. We look forward to working with John as he builds and expands on the solid foundations and strong values that have been developed at ECT.”
Anna: Essentially, it was the right moment to step down, for the charity and for me. I’ve worked without a career break for the past 44 years and I’m mindful that my father died at 57, looking forward to a retirement that never happened. I have two young grandchildren and another on the way and I want to retire at a point when ECT is in great shape and while I’ve still got the energy and health to enjoy life!
Anna: I will pick three:
I received a lovely message about this very recently from another CEO in the sector:
“Enjoy a well-deserved, new lease of life with a focus on what makes you happy in life… The sector has a lot to be thankful for when it comes to your commitment and dedication. I know you will not be expecting a big thanks but if it weren’t for you Anna the sector would be broken and having to operate on a commercial level and the benefits of our added charitable and added value contributions lost… You can retire knowing that you did make a massive contribution to making many people’s lives better and more bearable, not just while you had the stewardship of ECT but well into the future.”
Anna: I’ve got a maths degree and after university I joined British Airways on a graduate training scheme, so transport has always been in my blood. When I first joined ECT I was asked to help with inputting log sheets when my children were very little. Never in a million years did I expect my role to grow to what it is, let alone be a CEO!
In 2008 when the former ECT Group was broken up and restructured, I was the last person standing and the board members at the time asked me if I would take it on. At that point I saw myself as a good operations director but I had no governance knowledge so I took it upon myself to learn all the best practice in governance to make sure something similar never happened again.
Anna: My passion for what we do, my pride in my team – and my true belief in the necessity of door-to-door transport and the difference it makes for local communities.
As I have got older and as our reputation has grown through our achievements and awards such as my MBE, I have got to a position where I have felt I can also make a difference at a national level.
My family have always been involved in volunteering and charitable activities, from the time when they were refugees. My grandmother set up a school for Polish girls in Palestine who had been deported to Siberia and later rescued Polish orphans on behalf of the Red Cross, and I recently found out that my grandfather saved thousands of Jewish people by faking documents during the war. So, fighting for people who don’t have access to the support they need seems to be in my DNA.
Standing up for Community Transport itself has always been important to me – I’ve always viewed our sector as the ‘hidden hero of transport’, never taken seriously enough by those in positions of power. The work we did on the Social Value Toolkit is an important example of this: I suppose I was driven to this almost out of desperation in making my point about the value of Community Transport and realising that anecdotes and case studies were not enough!
Particularly in recent years, with the austerity agenda, every charity has had to fight for its existence and prove its worth. The toolkit has been an important way for us and for other CTs to be able to prove our true value in a world where finance/costs have become all consuming.
Anna: I have never been focused on growing or increasing our turnover for the sake of it but we have always been interested in exploring new opportunities if they were a good fit and we could create social value. These have included a series of special events where we have been approached because of our reputation for high-quality, professional services, as well as the opportunity to deliver local authority transport contracts in Milton Keynes, Cheshire, Dorset, and Cornwall, which have given us the chance to provide a wider range of community transport services that fit our social mission.
When you deliver services in different parts of the country you need the right people, and I’m very proud of my staff who keep the show on the road on a daily basis. We enjoy a fabulous reputation in all the communities we serve, and the credit has to go to our local General Managers and their teams.
Anna: Without doubt wearing ECT uniform, working as part of a team at the heart of operations – notably during special events. Whilst London 2012 was in its own league, the ‘Summer of Athletics’ in 2017 was very special. Delivering transport so well in public view has given me so much pride in my ECT family.
Anna: The people – each and every one. It’s always been about the ECT family, and I will miss the times when we chat, or staff stop by my office to just say hello or share a story about the day they have had and the people they have supported. They all do such an amazing job and I can’t thank them enough.
Anna: I wish our new CEO John Chesters every success and I wish everybody good luck and the very best for the future. As a local resident in Ealing or on my travels I look forward to seeing the green minibuses on the road, and I will feel proud that ECT continues to do amazing work.
Ask anybody who uses public transport about their experiences with bus drivers, and you probably won’t get a wholly positive answer.
Ask an Ealing Community Transport passenger, however, and you will always get an appreciative and approving response: “friendly”, “helpful” and “kind” are some of the words most often used in ECT passenger surveys.
As two of the charity’s most experienced drivers, Fayyaz Dar and Darren Tyrrell, explain – for them, being an ECT driver is not just about taking a vehicle from one location to another; the wellbeing of their passengers is their major focus – and what makes their jobs worthwhile.
“With all my clients I have built a relationship with them – if they don’t see me they get upset and they make comments like, ‘Where were you yesterday, I missed you!’, says Fayyaz.
“I know they are passengers – but they become your friends, and they do miss us,” says Darren. “There are often times when you are driving along and they’ll have a sing, you know – it’s nice to see them happy. At the end of the day it’s all about making people happy and keeping them safe.”
As we all know from the past year, the notion of ‘keeping safe’ during the Covid-19 pandemic has become a prevailing interest for the whole population.
But for Fayyaz and Darren, the pandemic has also brought extra challenges around maintaining their own safety as well as that of their vulnerable passengers.
Both have been on duty to support their regular passengers during some periods of the pandemic. But both also have health conditions that have forced them to ‘shield’ during times when the virus has been most threatening.
Fayyaz first heard about ECT through a family friend, and thought working for the charity sounded like an interesting change after many years in big business. “Until I joined ECT I had always worked for major corporations at a multi-national level,” he says. “But six years ago I made a decision to change career and put something into the community – and wash away my sins!” he smiles.
“I work with adult services and I drive the same passengers each day so there is a sort of bond with them, in the sense that I feel responsible for them,” Fayyaz explains. “When I was shielding it felt like someone taking your child away – and then you don’t have anyone to look after.”
Fayyaz says that the past year, both physically and psychologically, has been “a mixed bag”. He describes his feelings as “absolutely out of this world… Initially it was a feeling of fear because we went into lockdown and furlough but prior to that we were working and taking all sorts of precautions, not only for ourselves but most importantly for our clients.
“That is always first and foremost in my opinion and especially with the clients that we deal with – I transport vulnerable adults to centres and they have all sorts of special needs,” he explains. “I get to know my passengers on an individual basis, so I had a lot of fear for them – Am I doing the right thing? Am I taking every precaution that I need to? – because this is a responsibility; it’s not a job, it’s a responsibility.”
Indeed, Fayyaz's sense of duty to his passengers is so committed that when he suffered a heart attack back in 2019, his first reaction was to call the office from the ambulance and let CEO Anna Whitty know he couldn’t come into work: “While the paramedics were looking after me I said to them, ‘I’ve got to make a call, you carry on doing what you need to do’ – so they administered some drugs and I called the office. I said, ‘Anna, just to let you know that I won’t be able to work because I’ve had a heart attack and I’m being treated at this moment!’ - It was funny really!”
During recent months, Fayyaz has been saddened by a series of bereavements among his family and friends, many of them Covid-related. But he himself has remained healthy, shielding at home for some of the time but back at work whenever it’s been safe for him to return. “Going onto furlough when I had to shield was a relief to a degree,” he admits. “But at the same time I was thinking ‘How are my clients getting on? What’s happening to them? What are they doing?’”
He describes returning to work during these uncertain times as “like having a bonfire – you’ve got to be careful and control it. You are always on edge to make sure there are no embers flying out and whatever embers there are you extinguish them immediately.”
But he says that his passengers have been “happy to see me – and it’s a two way thing!”. He adds that ECT has “supported me very well through this scenario”, with regular updates and clear information on keeping everything sanitised and ‘Covid-safe’.
For Darren Tyrrell, who has been a Dial-a-Ride driver for ECT for more than 14 years, following a 20-year career in engineering, it’s Type 2 diabetes that has forced him to spend much of the last year shielding at home.
“When it all started everybody expected it would last just a few weeks and I thought, oh that isn’t so bad. Then it turned into five months... You try to stick to some kind of routine, but if you’re not careful you can find yourself watching the news from dawn to dusk!” he says.
“You tended to do more exercise because it became illegal to go out unless you were exercising or going to get food – so it was time to get the bike out and cycle four or five miles, or thinking, what do I want at the supermarket today?”
The boredom was probably the hardest thing about staying off work “but there was fear, too, I must admit,” adds Darren, which also affected his return to work. “I’m quite an outgoing, confident person and when I came back to work the first time and had a driving assessment with Jay our trainer, I did say to him, I actually feel nervous about this. But once I was back in the saddle and we’d been out for 20 minutes it was like I’d never left.”
After another period of shielding during the most recent lockdown, Darren says he is again “bored out of my mind and I am sure it is the same for our passengers”.
He adds: “They were nervous and frightened last year and I was happy to see them and reassure them – but now they will be excited to get back out, to try and get some normality back.”
Darren himself also “can’t wait to get back out again” – still wary but more confident thanks to the vaccine.
He describes himself as “very happy with my work at ECT”, adding that “even though you are doing the same thing, every day is different and you get good feelings making someone else happy. Every job has its days but you get to meet so many different people, hearing about their lives and things they like – so I still enjoy going to work every day.”
Fayyaz is also reassured by the success of the vaccination programme. “If everyone is vaccinated then it makes everyone safer so I am glad that our clients have had the vaccine,” he says.
Asked more broadly about his feelings towards ECT, he reflects: “I view working with someone as being in a relationship. It’s a two way thing. As soon as I put my uniform on in the morning that’s it, I am representing the organisation.
“I am very old school – so the loyalty aspect is very, very important,” he reflects. “When I get appreciation for my loyalty I will go all the way, if I don’t I will walk away. I’ve been here six years now and I haven’t walked away yet – so I think that answers your question!”
ECT has announced the upcoming retirement of its long-serving chief executive, Anna Whitty MBE.
Anna will step down at the end of April, after more than a decade at the helm. John Chesters, currently the CEO of Emmaus Hertfordshire, will take over as ECT’s new chief executive in May.
Anna informed the Board of her intention to retire in October. In a message to the ECT team, she said: “There is always so much more to do, particularly in the midst of such unprecedented times – but I have come to a point in my life at which I believe the time is now right for me to step away and spend more time with my grandchildren.”
ECT Chair Patrick O’Keeffe paid tribute to Anna’s 32 years of dedication to the charity, the past 13 of which she has served as chief executive.
“Under Anna’s leadership, ECT has become a leading charity in the UK, particularly within the Community Transport sector,” he said. “We have had the privilege of being selected to provide accessible transport for spectators to attend the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics Games, the Rugby World Cup, the inaugural Invictus Games and the World Athletics and Para Athletics Championships.
“During this very difficult time of Covid 19 pandemic, Anna, along with all the dedicated and highly professional staff of ECT, has also assisted vulnerable people in our communities by delivering emergency food parcels, essential transport including schools, GP appointments, shopping and most recently, transport for vulnerable patients to vaccination centres. The charity has stepped up and made a significant difference to the quality of peoples’ daily lives.”
Patrick added: “Anna has developed a strong and committed team and has led the way in providing high quality, affordable, safe and friendly accessible transport to our vulnerable communities in Ealing, Dorset and Cheshire. The charity has benefitted greatly from the relationships that Anna has successfully built up with our local councils, partners, suppliers and transport authorities over the years.”
In 2016, following recommendations from Patrick and former Commissioner of Transport for London Sir Peter Hendy to the Honours Committee, Anna’s achievements were recognised in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours’ list with an MBE.
New chief executive John Chesters will start at ECT on 24th May, with deputy CEO Becky Casement serving as interim CEO until John’s arrival.
Prior to John’s position at Emmaus Hertfordshire, he worked for a number of years with The Forward Trust (Blue Sky), supporting ex-offenders to find employment and in various operations focused roles. He also knows Ealing very well, having worked as General Manager for ECT Recycling between 2001 and 2006.
Patrick O’Keeffe commented: “We are delighted that John has accepted this key role at ECT. John will bring a wealth of experience to the organisation, including an excellent track record in the charity sector and extensive experience of working with local authorities. We look forward to working with John as he builds and expands on the solid foundations and strong values that have been developed at ECT.”
Anna Whitty commented: “I am delighted that, after a rigorous recruitment process by our Board of Trustees, John Chesters has been appointed to take the reins. John’s CV speaks for itself and from our conversations, it is clear that he really understands the charity and the important work that we do.
“I have every confidence that both his values and his experience will maintain the qualities that have made ECT so special and successful, and that he will guide the team forward with the right mix of care and conviction as the charity takes its next steps towards an equally positive future.”
John Chesters commented: “This is a tremendously exciting opportunity, and I am looking forward to taking on this vital role from Anna. I know ECT very well and have admired the progress and impact it has made throughout her time leading the organisation.
“There have been some exceptionally tough times, including the last year, and for ECT to be in such a great place is testament to Anna’s leadership, as well as the dedication of the staff team, board and everyone else involved. Clearly a hard act to follow, but we are all determined to maintain our support to our communities and to see this grow and improve over the coming years.”
A decade ago, David Lamb was just finishing a few months’ temporary work for the Census, after 30 years running a small domiciliary care service with his wife in the Bridport area of Dorset.
Looking around for something new to occupy his time, he answered an advert for a community transport driver’s role with Dorset Community Transport (DCT) “and to my amazement I got the job”, he reports.
Joining in October 2011, the initial position was for a Relief/Cover driver but it didn’t take DCT long to realise that in David, they had found a star driver in the making: “I was asked if I would like a permanent role,” David reports. “Then I was asked if I would take on a run to a special needs school – and I’ve been doing that ever since.”
“I had intended to take a year off but I’ve been here for more than nine years now – I’m probably one of the oldest drivers they’ve got,” he chuckles.
“To be honest I never realised when I started with DCT that I would get so much satisfaction out of taking children with special needs to school and back and making sure they are safe and happy,” David admits. “It’s a different world altogether than mainstream schools. You obviously have to work as a team with your passenger assistant but we have very good working relationships,” he says.
Like everybody, David and the DCT team have had to adapt their work and services during the Covid situation. Before the pandemic, David’s bus took children from their homes to two different schools located close to one another. Once the restrictions hit it became a single-school operation only, but because some of the young passengers were considered vulnerable and others were the children of key workers, DCT kept services running even during the school holidays.
David reflects that doing a school bus run might “sound like quite a menial sort of task”. But the opportunity to support children with special needs is clearly something that gives him a great deal of satisfaction. “You are working with different children and getting them to respond well to you can be a challenge at times. When that happens you really feel a sense of progress,” he says.
“You see them every school day – they look forward to the little green bus parking outside, and the parents do too because they know their children are safe and will be looked after well. It’s quite a lively sort of bus that we have because the passenger assistant engages them with various activities like singing and it does make the journey go well.”
David has particular words of praise for his colleague and DCC passenger assistant Vicky Budden. “She has been working in the care world for quite some time, up until a couple of years ago, mainly with adults, elderly people. She does some volunteering work in between her bus duties and she is absolutely brilliant with the children – she engages with them very well,” he says.
“I love to hear them behind me all singing various nursery rhymes and they look out for certain things on the route all the time as well as the different farms we pass.”
David also feels well supported by DCT’s operations team. “Things have become more difficult during Covid but they are always at the end of a phone or an email. DCT are a very good operation to work for – we get good support and they let you know what’s happening and keep you up-to-date with the various things you have to do,” he says.
Before the lockdowns, recalls David, three or four of the drivers would go and meet up for a coffee on Fridays after the morning run – “But that’s been knocked on the head just at the moment!” However, DCT General Manager Tim Christian has been going out regularly to check in with drivers and make sure they are ok.
“Tim comes out on a fairly regular basis,” says David. “When the whole Covid thing started up Tim checked with me if I was prepared to carry on working as older people are more vulnerable to Covid. “But knowing the route, the passenger assistant and the parents, and the way things happen, I haven’t felt at risk at all as far as Covid is concerned,” David says.
Asked how he feels about the idea of being seen as a ‘hidden hero’, David is typically modest: “I hope I am doing something for the community but I am not very good at blowing my own trumpet,” he says. “To be honest I am quite surprised at the way that people do thank you for making sure that everything is ok. I am just doing a job which I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of.
“There’s quite a few little green buses around Dorset now – I think people are getting to know there is community transport available to them to help them when they need it and hopefully that will continue,” he adds. “If I am told for any reason that I need to give it up then so be it – but providing I am fit and healthy and I am safe driving the bus then I am happy to carry on!”
Many people assume that ‘community transport’ is part of the local council – after all, it provides important public services that get vulnerable or isolated people out of their homes to the places they need to be in their local communities, from shopping trips to visiting the GP.
But, as ECT’s chief executive Anna Whitty tells host Leon Daniels in his popular Lunch with Leon podcast, this is a common misapprehension.
In fact, she tells Leon – over their online, ‘Covid-safe’ lunch conversation – although transport is seen as a statutory service, many people are not able to access mainstream public transport that meets their needs.
As an independent charity, Ealing Community Transport focuses on supporting these people who “fall between the gaps”, says Anna. “I’ve made it a lifetime mission to particularly reach lonely and isolated people, people who no longer have a voice.”
Anna explains to Leon – who himself is the former boss of Transport for London – why providing a door-to-door, rather than ‘kerb-to-kerb’, transport service is so important for such passengers.
They also chat about ECT’s role in providing accessible transport during the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, and how it demonstrated to the world what good accessible transport looks like.
They then move on to discuss the safety and caring component of community transport operations, as well as MiDAS (Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme) and the high standards ECT sets with regards to recruitment and training of drivers.
Anna closes by explaining how her staff pulled together to those in need as the ‘Hidden Heroes’ of their communities during the first Covid lockdown.
Considering the air of calm and positivity she conveys during a telephone conversation, it’s surprising to learn that when Sharon Renner got the operations controller job at Ealing Community Transport nearly six years ago – after several years running operations for a property management company – she says she was a bundle of nerves.
“When I joined I was very nervous, I didn’t think I could do it,” Sharon admits. “But my other half said to me, just relax, you can do it; basically it was the same job as I was doing before but just in a different format.”
Perhaps this personal experience of overcoming her own anxiety is partly why Sharon has become so good at supporting ECT’s passengers when they are worried about travelling, particularly during the Covid pandemic.
The team at Gordon House Surgery, where ECT has been providing transport for elderly and vulnerable patients for both regular health appointments and Covid vaccinations, also point to a special warmth and helpfulness in the way Sharon communicates that instils trust and confidence for ECT’s partners and passengers alike. Lead administrator Ruby Jamil recently made a ‘special mention’ of Sharon in another of ECT’s Hidden Heroes features, describing her as “amazing… because she is so efficient and helpful and always tries her best to meet our requests”.
Sharon runs the bookings for ECT’s ground-breaking PlusBus for Health service, co-ordinating patient transport for 73 GP surgeries across the borough. As we tick past the anniversary of the first lockdown, she reflects on how – before the pandemic – PlusBus for Health had succeeded in creating huge benefits both for the health centres across Ealing and for the individuals who found it hard to get transport for important check-ups.
“They used to have a lot of people cancelling or not attending but when we came along, those vital appointments for blood tests or flu clinics weren’t being missed anymore,” says Sharon. “They’ve seen a rise particularly in the older generation who can now get to the surgeries with ECT instead of struggling to get there on public transport.”
When Covid hit the borough a year ago, however, it knocked things for six.
“Everything was up in the air,” Sharon recalls. “The effect was just enormous – from lots of people going to the doctor’s to no one. I was very worried, especially for people who needed diabetic eye screening and tests for blood clotting, and particularly for the older generation, it was awful it really was.”
Sharon knew there was an important job to do both in letting the surgeries know that transport from ECT was still available – and also in persuading nervous patients that there was a ‘Covid-safe’ way to make these crucial healthcare journeys.
“You can’t tell when you get onto a public bus whether the handrails have all been sanitised. But with our buses, every time a patient or passenger gets on - it’s sanitised, and when the driver gets back on, he wipes everything down again,” Sharon says.
“The surgeries that knew us and used us regularly asked if we were still running and if they could book us to bring someone in. We said yes we can, as long as the patients didn’t have covid symptoms and all precautions were followed. Slowly the patients started coming back.
“Some of them were very nervous but I said to them – honestly you’ll be fine, there’s nothing for you to worry about, we’ll be picking you up from home and taking you straight to the surgery, and then we’ll wait for you and take you straight home again.”
When the first lockdown was lifted, ECT was also able to offer a chance to get out and about to some of the most isolated people in the borough – with a programme of outings to local beauty spots such as Kew Gardens and Chiswick House.
“I said to them – you’ve been facing the same four walls, day in day out. With our outings you will get to see different scenery, getting out just for an hour or two, and it will do your mind good.
“We had such positive feedback, they just loved it and told us they’d had a fantastic time,” Sharon reports. “There was one family, a daughter looking after her mum and her sister, who were over the moon just to get out and get some fresh air.”
“There were still some people that couldn’t go out – and that breaks my heart,” continues Sharon. “But we still try and do a regular call with all of these people, which they absolutely love. They are very precious to us our customers, and we just want to make sure that they are ok. Even if their family were doing shopping for them we would call to have a chat – it’s important just to have someone to speak to, whether for 30 seconds or 10 minutes. They would worry that they were keeping me from my work but I would rather have a chat – at the end of the day if it’s cheered somebody up, then my job is done!”
When the second and third lockdowns came into force in November and January, the day trips had to be put on hold. But ECT soon found itself delivering another vital role – ferrying scores of vulnerable patients to vaccination centres around the borough.
This was an extension of the PlusBus for Health work – but on almost an industrial scale.
“The bookings started to come through slowly in early December when we took the first patients for their injections at Ealing Town Hall. From there it got busier and busier. It’s run very smoothly and has been a massive team effort,” says Sharon.
The strength of ECT’s team-working – both with each other and with partners – has been a key success factor during the Covid situation, Sharon emphasises. “You’ve got to have a good team who all know what to do, who work together and have a good team morale, which we do.”
Sharon observes that while many of ECT’s elderly passengers maintained a ‘can do’ attitude during the early months of the pandemic, the continuous isolation has taken its toll both mentally and physically: “For many their health has deteriorated and they are just fed up, I am very worried about them,” she says.
For the ECT team too, there’s no doubt that keeping services running and stepping up to the new challenges of the past year has demanded both physical and emotional resilience.
Sharon shares a recent conversation with one regular passenger who used to book ECT to go shopping every Friday: “She’s been having radiotherapy in Charing Cross hospital so I gave her a call to ask how she was doing. She very sadly told us that her sister had passed away, and it absolutely threw us because her sister was a regular on our bus as well. It broke our hearts and it kind of brings it back home to you, and so when you get home on some days you do give your loved ones a bit of a hug.”
However, news that the pandemic might finally be subsiding has helped bring back hope – and bookings. The lady having radiotherapy has already reserved her place on a shopping trip: “When I asked her if she would also like to go on an outing, she said she really wanted to come, so I said – don’t worry, you’ll be on that list!” reports Sharon.
“We’ve actually got quite a long list of people at the moment – so hopefully, once things slowly open up we’ll be getting in touch with everyone and the outings will resume.”
“We’ve also got quite a few new customers who’ve been going for their Covid vaccine or GP appointments on the PlusBus for Health, and when I mention our outings they say, ‘Oh I can’t wait - it will be lovely to get out in that fresh air!’
Then there’s the highly anticipated reopening of another important service: “Once the hairdressers open – oh my word, we will be flooded!”
From vaccinations to long awaited trips to the hairdresser, it’s clear that ECT will continue to play a key role in making ‘normal life’ possible as the pandemic turns a corner.
“You’ve got to feel positive,” says Sharon. “Things won’t go back as they were but they definitely will pick up, maybe slowly at first but they will.
“ECT does go above and beyond – it’s what we’re here for,” she adds. “But I have to say it is a big team effort here. You feel very proud to work for ECT, very proud.”
With the seemingly never-ending focus on restrictions and hospital admission rates at the top of everyone’s minds, it’s a challenge to remember that we all have more routine health matters that might need attending to.
The ongoing requests to stay inside, the fear of exposing ourselves or our loved ones to higher infection risk in transport or healthcare settings, as well as a general feeling of “not wanting to make a fuss”, have all meant that what would normally have been routine GP appointments, check-up or treatments have now come to seem onerous – especially for people who are elderly or vulnerable.
But thanks to the strong partnership that has developed between GP surgeries and Ealing Community Transport (ECT) over the last few years, the pressures of missed health appointments, under-served patients and over-burdened healthcare staff have found some relief across Ealing, even with the added challenges of the coronavirus.
Gordon House Surgery is an impressive example of what can happen when a can-do attitude and some innovative thinking are applied to solving such problems.
Of the 73 GP surgeries across this west London borough, Gordon House is the biggest by some way, with more than 15,000 patients on its books and a staff of more than 40, from doctors and nurses to a busy team of receptionists and administrators.
Go back just a few years ago, and Gordon House doctors were carrying out a large number of time-consuming home visits, for patients who had no means of getting to the surgery for their health issues – either for one-off problems or for regular procedures such as blood tests and dressings.
Then the surgery started working with ECT’s innovative PlusBus for Health (a partnership with Ealing CCG) – and everything changed.
“The doctors used to have a minimum of 10 home visits a day,” explains Practice Nurse Marie McDermott. “These patients weren’t housebound but they just had no transportation – they were elderly and maybe didn’t have family nearby, didn’t have friends who could help because perhaps people were working, and a lot of them couldn’t afford to get private taxis.
“Since ECT started up the PlusBus for Health it has cut the number of home visits dramatically,” says Marie. “We went from 10 visits every day to 5 visits each week, depending on the time of year.
“For the nurses as well, it has meant blood test patients can come here so that takes pressure off the domiciliary phlebotomists, and patients also come to us for dressings, which reduces the pressure on the district nursing team. It also cuts down on a large amount of wastage, in both staff hours and finance,” she points out. “If patients can come to us for their dressings then a wound might heal after maybe three weeks, whereas if they had to go into hospital with a wound that hasn’t healed because it hasn’t been treated when it should, it could cost the NHS thousands.”
Besides time and cost, Marie says there are other important reasons why patients like using the PlusBus for Health. These have been particularly significant during the months dealing with the pandemic. “People want to get out of their houses and come into the surgery, and they love their doctors,” says Marie. “A lot of these patients live on their own – they don’t see anybody apart from the postman.” She adds that elderly patients like to have a good chat when they come into reception – something which they also enjoyed on their bus journeys in pre-Covid times. “It’s just nice for them to have human contact which they wouldn’t normally get,” she says.
Patients also report that the journey itself is a positive experience. “There’s never anything negative said about ECT. The drivers are lovely – I couldn’t fault the service at all,” says Marie. “There’s one elderly couple both in their 80s and the wife is the main carer – she’s delighted because it means she and her husband can come here together. The PlusBus team are never in a rush, always friendly, courteous and happy to wait. They pick them up and take them to where they need to go, then take them back home again when they are finished.
Although the coronavirus has increased the pressure and complexity of meeting the healthcare needs of vulnerable patients, Ruby Jamil, Lead Administrator at Gordon House, says patients and staff alike have great confidence in the high standards of health and safety that ECT maintains in the PlusBus for Health service. “We wouldn’t offer anything to patients that is not safe during the pandemic. If they need an appointment and transport needs to be booked then they know it’s safe to travel – that’s why the service is still continuing,” she says.
Since the coronavirus vaccines first became available in December, ECT and Gordon House have also been working together to ensure people can travel to Ealing’s vaccination centres to get their jabs.
It’s a simple and efficient booking service, says Ruby. “We fill in a form with the date and time of the appointment and whether the patient needs a wheelchair or other assistance. It takes literally five minutes to fill in – then we just email the form over to ECT and we get a confirmation and reference number back pretty quickly.
“There’s somebody called Sharon who co-ordinates the appointments at ECT and she’s really, really good – all our receptionists say she is amazing and that she should get a special mention because she is so efficient and helpful and always tries her best to meet our requests.”
Practice Nurse Marie adds: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the bus can take the patients for their vaccinations because it not only cuts the pressure on us as a surgery but also helps the patients get their vaccines as quickly as possible. We have been quite proactive in reassuring the patients that everything is as clean as it can be – and because the PlusBus is a personal, door-to-door service they feel very safe and secure.
“They are delighted with the service because they are getting their vaccine and a lot of them can’t see their families, they can’t get out – so they see this as a means to an end when they can start getting out and socialising and seeing their own families again. Many have grandchildren or great-grandchildren so it’s going to make a huge difference to family life for them eventually.”
Looking beyond the pandemic, the Gordon House team is keen to build further on the relationship with ECT, with ideas around increasing the use of the PlusBus for other groups in need, such as young mums with disabled children, or patients with mental health problems. “I didn’t actually know that we could book the PlusBus for mental health patients,” says Receptionist Pauline Leung. “I spoke to one young woman this week who said she couldn’t leave the house because of her anxiety, and if I had known, I would have suggested it to her.”
Pauline also suggests that the PlusBus might offer some tips for improving other health transport services: “It would be great if ECT PlusBus could transport patients to every hospital in London – that would be a godsend it absolutely would!”
Practice Nurse Marie adds that while some other health transport services might not be very popular, the opposite is true for ECT’s PlusBus for Health. “Everybody thinks it’s absolutely fantastic. If you can keep the patients happy and you can keep the clinicians happy, then everyone’s happy!
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to ECT and Sharon and the team and all the drivers. It makes for a good partnership with everyone pulling together. It just makes our lives easier – and for the patients it’s a lifesaver, and I know they are a lot happier for it.”
To find out more about PlusBus for Health, or to book your transport for a surgery or vaccination appointment, please speak to your surgery or get in touch: call 020 8813 3214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When Piotr Chodzko-Zajko decided to step down from a long and successful career as a global corporate executive just over a year ago and join a busy community transport charity near his home, he didn’t necessarily expect a quieter life.
What he didn’t foresee, however, was that he would be spending his first year as General Manager of Ealing Community Transport’s operations in Greenford, west London, navigating the challenges of a global pandemic.
The last few weeks have been particularly demanding for Piotr. For starters, ECT has needed to drastically increase its delivery of crucial food parcels – twenty-five thousand of which it had already distributed since the first lockdown.
But the big additional change over Christmas and the first weeks of the New Year has been a potentially life-saving task that the charity has taken on in providing access to the new Covid-19 vaccine, now available at special centres in the borough.
“Normally we have a full break from 24th December to 2nd January but two things happened,” explains Piotr. “First, Ealing Foodbank said they were going to be open and people were still going hungry over Christmas. And secondly, we were asked by the GP Federation to take patients to the vaccinations centre who couldn’t get there any other way – and we were warned that they could be doing vaccinations on Christmas Day!”
Just as ECT embarked on a life-saving operation to support thousands of families and elderly people with the delivery of emergency food parcels during the first months of the coronavirus crisis – now, the team has been tasked with a game-changing role transporting hundreds of elderly people who have received letters inviting them for their vaccination but who have no easy means to get from their homes to where the vaccines are being administered, often many miles away across the borough.
“As you know, the first vaccine from Astra Zeneca is very difficult to store and move – whenever it arrives you have 3.5 days to use it,” says Piotr. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a little label on it saying ‘3.5 days ignoring bank holidays’!”
So, as soon as supplies were confirmed for the vaccination centre at Ealing Town Hall in mid-December, ECT began taking patient bookings passed through from the 75 GP surgeries around the borough.
Within three weeks over the Christmas period, ECT had transported nearly 50, local 80+year-olds from their front doors to the vaccination centre and back again for their life-saving jab.
A week later, with another vaccination centre having opened up at the Dominion Centre in Southall, patient numbers using community transport increased to 250. On Thursday, the charity had 14 minibuses allocated for patient transport, including routine health appointments, which have continued as per usual. Piotr anticipates demand will only grow over the coming weeks and months as patients require their second dose and other priority age-groups receive their vaccination appointments. At time of writing, the number of patients using ECT to access their vaccination appointments stands at over 450.
“Our first job was to find people who were willing to step up, which to be honest wasn’t difficult. I had enough volunteers for any eventuality, including weekends, both among our drivers and the office team,” says Piotr.
“The surgeries were open between Christmas and the new year and they were getting in touch to book transport. So it wasn’t just bringing people to be vaccinated but also we had to receive the bookings from the GPs, schedule a route and work out how we were going to get them there. To begin with there was only one vaccination centre but now that we have two it’s getting interesting”
Despite the surge in activity, however, Piotr’s team has clearly got things well organised. “For the surgeries, the vaccination requests are actually quite simple: they send us a form by email, we reply confirming a date and a reference number, then they just leave it to us. We then ring the patient and it’s off their hands completely – so all the surgery has to do is send us an email.”
As Piotr explains, the charity has not had to create the links with local surgeries completely from a standing start. Fortunately, ECT has already established a strong and busy relationship with local GPs through its long-standing PlusBus for Health service, run in partnership with Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group. “Any surgery can get in touch and say, this person has an appointment, can you bring them. We’re actually still getting many of the normal GP appointments – the podiatry requests, the blood tests, the dressing changes – so it’s really very busy. Having said that, we are excited to see surgeries get in touch who haven’t engaged with community transport in the past.”
Piotr also has some impressive experience of his own that has put him in an excellent position for running the transport service to GP surgeries. Alongside a career spent running large commercial contracts for customers such as Microsoft and B&Q, Piotr also spent nearly 20 years as a volunteer for the St John Ambulance – leading the charity’s operations for big events such as the London Marathon as well as being its officer in charge for five years at Chelsea Football Club.
“The next few weeks will be a challenge as the Covid vaccination appointments rise – but it’s a little bit like running a major treatment centre for the St John Ambulance,” he says. “I used to do the finish line at the marathon in London, with four intensive care beds, eight high-dependency beds and probably about 20 others, and every marathon, we’d run out of space, we’d run out of ambulances, we’d run out of stretchers.
“But there’s no point jumping up and down; you do the best you can and you find a way to make it work. You deal with the challenges calmly and think creatively about how to find solutions. You know – there’s always a way around if you think calmly and sensibly about it.”
At the same time as setting up the vaccination service, the lockdown restrictions have once again signalled an extremely busy time for food parcel deliveries across the borough.
Tens of thousands of food items are being stored next to ECT’s main depot in Greenford, and twice a week the charity is ferrying supplies to Ealing Food Bank’s distribution centre in Hanwell, before then re-loading the minibuses with bags of food to distribute from the Food Bank to individuals and families in need.
“Today, we loaded up 300, one-kilo porridge bags, 300 carrots and 300 soups. Tomorrow we go and distribute from the food bank – so on our way there, we will take them what they are short of.
Most recently, ECT has also re-started deliveries for the charity food service for families in Southall, which originally began last April in the wake of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end the issue of schoolchildren going hungry at home during the first lockdown.
“We’ve also just agreed to restart the Southall food deliveries,” adds Piotr. “So that will be five buses, twice a week – the same as Hanwell. The good news is that Dial-a-Ride have agreed that we can repurpose five of the buses we run for them twice a week for the Southall food runs.”
Piotr reflects that even before the most recent food and vaccination activities got going, the pandemic does not seem to have reduced the need for the charity’s services in Ealing. Checking records for a random date back in November as an example, he counts 46 separate services delivered during that day alone, including adult day centre transport services and SEND school routes which have needed to stay open during the crisis.
“Everybody has stepped up to the plate,” says Piotr of the Ealing team. “To be honest, no one has come to me and said, ‘It’s too scary I’m going to stay at home,’.
“It’s a challenge on resources but we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing as part of our charity objectives – we’re feeding the borough!”
“What’s great is you’ve got somebody who’s a passenger assistant for a school, for example, who has not batted an eyelid at going up three flights of stairs with eight bags of food – even though it’s not her usual job, and probably not something she finds easy. But the drivers help and – to have that kind of dedication is great.
“And as well as the drivers and passenger assistants, we have office staff who go out and are marshalling the traffic at the food centres, and who load up those 300 bags of porridge – it’s not their job but you know, it’s all hands to the pump – it really is a team.”
As I was reading through the series of messages that I have shared with staff during the course of this unprecedented year, three words seemed to recur more than most: ‘dedication’, ‘commitment’ and ‘professionalism’.
It also struck me that at each stage of 2020 – and whatever phase of the Covid-19 pandemic we were experiencing – these words have rung strong and true, as we took things in our stride, put plans in place, then calmly revised them as the various restrictions changed and changed again.
Despite this stop-start uncertainty, our ability to be ‘dedicated’ and ‘professional’, to offer help and support to our partners, and to meet the needs of our communities across Ealing, Cheshire and Dorset, has stayed steady and strong.
We say in our charity strapline that we ‘make journeys possible’ and although some of these journeys involved food rather than people during part of the year, I am so proud at the way that we have kept services running. One thing I have learned as CEO of ECT Charity over the past 13 years is that if you give a seemingly impossible task to a team of committed and highly professional people, they will find a way to get it done. This has been demonstrated to a gold-standard many times already, of course, in the superb job we made delivering accessible transport for events such as the 2012 Olympics, Prince Harry’s Invictus Games 2014 and the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.
But this year, we have gone further, and there are some other important words that have characterised the approach that has shone through across our remarkable charity during these recent challenges – words such as ‘resilience’, ‘bravery’ and ‘care’.
Not only have ECT’s staff been the very definition of professionalism but they have shown true bravery in the way that they have stepped up to deal with the challenges presented to us. Not only are they committed but they have maintained resilience – and supported each other to do so – during these turbulent times. And ECT staff are dedicated because they care deeply about our communities and how we can serve them.
I know that I speak for all of our Board of Trustees and my colleagues in the management team when I say: “thank you, you have been outstanding”.
ECT wishes our passengers and our partners a peaceful and happy Christmas, and a healthy new year.
If you thought the telephone was an old-fashioned and outdated communications tool, then think again. In the hands of Jean Turnbull, dedicated ‘anchor-woman’ at the ECT in Cheshire office in Ellesmere Port, the phone has been a crucial tool to support vulnerable and lonely people get through the months of Covid-19 restrictions during 2020.
Jean has been making regular calls to around 50 people – ECT’s regular passengers before Covid hit – during the pandemic, speaking to some of them three or four times.
“In all honesty, I’ve just seen it as something to be done, to help in any way I can through lockdown,” she says. “It’s been important to speak to all of our passengers and just have a chat with them, make sure they are all ok.
“My thing is, where possible, reducing the loneliness for them because a lot of them are in their 70s and 80s and obviously they might not have been able to get out. It’s human contact – they are getting to talk to someone. Most of them have been very grateful for the call.”
When the first lockdown was announced in March, ECT’s General Manager for Cheshire Ian Dibbert was on annual leave, so Jean found herself in a crucial position of responsibility – and the key point of contact not just for passengers but also for the team of drivers, passenger assistants and casual staff.
“Ian was on holiday when everything started the week before the full lockdown came in,” Jean recalls. “I was trying to keep everyone constantly in the loop, then speaking to Ian when he came back and filling him in, and trying to make sure that staff were aware what was happening as well.
“Becky, our Deputy CEO, was constantly in communication, keeping me up-to-date if there were things I needed to let staff know, in particular the health and safety side – and I was ringing her with any questions about how it was going to work and how the various announcements were going to affect our services.
“It was almost like a snowball effect because the centres we provide transport for just started to close,” says Jean. “I got a call at about twenty to four on Friday letting us know a day centre was going to be closed from Monday – we had one lady who was due to start with us on the Monday so we had to ring and say that unfortunately the centre wasn’t going to be open, and we weren’t going to be able to provide transport.”
Although many public and social sector services for which ECT in Cheshire provided transport were forced to close, there was plenty of other important work to do.
Not only were there phone calls to ECT’s regular passengers who were shielding – there were also journeys to provide for people needing safe transport to pick up food supplies or attend essential health appointments.
“We had a few people who needed essential journeys to the shops,” says Jean. “They had no other option because they needed to get food and other supplies. We had other people who had to attend hospital, including one woman with a monthly appointment and because her treatment was essential she needed to be able to get there and come back.”
Halfway through lockdown one, Jean also found out about Chester and District Federation of the Blind. “They needed food parcels delivered and they weren’t sure about how it was going to be done – so I said, let me talk to my boss and I’ll get him in touch and see if we can help.”
Sure enough, ECT was able to step in and help, delivering food parcels and audio books to their members.
Throughout the lockdown period, Jean herself was on solo duty in the office, stopping only once to “breathe” for a few days’ holiday. Although General Manager Ian was very much leading the team, he was medically vulnerable so had to ‘shield’ by working from home.
“It pretty much was me here in the office on my own – the phones were ringing but not to the extent that they were as normal. It was very strange,” says Jean. “It was just about figuring out what I could do and what needed to be done so it could keep me occupied.
“Ian was always on the end of the phone if I or anyone needed him – and he, Becky and Anna [Anna Whitty, ECT’s CEO] have been so supportive throughout this,” says Jean. “I’ve always known that I can call any of them at any point if I wasn’t sure how something was going to work.”
Jean adds that ECT has been very clear about ensuring everyone’s safety – the office staff, the drivers, the passenger assistants as well as the passengers.
The high safety standards have also been particularly important following the end of the first lockdown, when many older and isolated people were desperate to get out of the house but nervous about using public transport.
In answer to this challenge, in August ECT launched a programme of day trips, running three or four each week with ‘Covid-secure’ standards. These included shopping trips to the popular Frodsham Market, and visits to destinations such as the Abbeywood Estate, which includes large gardens, an arboretum and a wildlife walk.
Garden centres have also been a popular choice for day trips, says Jean, since they are places both to shop and to socialise outside, with plenty of fresh air.
“The trips have been great for a lot of our clients. A lot of them are over the age of 70 or 80 and they have been massively affected by lockdown. These trips are the first time they have been able to get out of the house and see some of their friends for months,” reports Jean.
“Taking them somewhere local gets them out and about – and it’s door-to-door as well. They know our staff and they know it’s a safe haven for them to go out.”
Jean adds that on the bus, the driver will make sure everybody follows the rules on face coverings and distancing – but despite the restrictions, the sense of company and friendship shine through. “The driver will say, right you sit here and you sit there, then they sit down and turn to the next person, and it’s, ‘Oh hello, it’s so lovely to see you!’.”
Although Jean feels like she has had to “take each day as it came” during the past difficult months, and has also been concerned for her parents, who live near her in north Wales, she feels that through her work at ECT, she has been able to contribute something positive to the pandemic efforts.
“I do love my job and I do like dealing with passengers and staff,” she comments. “I’ve come from a retail background, working as a service advisor for Mercedes until the end of 2014, to coming here and working for a charity that helps vulnerable people – which to me is something that’s very worthwhile and rewarding.
“Community transport isn’t very well known sometimes.” Jean observes. “But you’ll get a phone call and they’ll say, ‘Oh I’ve seen this green bus’, and they will ask about the service and we will run through it with them – and they are very happy to know that we are here.
“I hope I have been able to make a difference,” Jean reflects. “For me it’s very rewarding being able to help people get back out and get a little bit of normality.
“They can feel reassured that we are still there for them to give them the service they have had – and that we will be here for them for as long as we can.”
Prioritising social value, avoiding “growth for growth’s sake”, and leading a charity through the Covid-19 pandemic are all part of the discussion in a brand new podcast launched this week, featuring ECT Charity CEO Anna Whitty MBE as one of the first guests.
The Fit for the Future podcast – produced by social enterprise magazine Pioneers Post and co-hosted by Buzzacott accountants – sets out to explore what it means to build a healthy, resilient, sustainable organisation that’s able to do good and well at the same time.
Throughout the series, the hosts meet some of the stars of social enterprise and mission-driven business to talk about how to build a strong culture, navigating risk and what it means to measure and manage impact.
In this first episode, Anna – who has been CEO at the community transport charity for more than 13 years, is joined by Natalie Campbell, who began her stint as the CEO of ethical drinks business Belu Water just three weeks before the coronavirus lockdown was announced in March.
They have two very different perspectives on the crisis, but agree on the lessons to be learnt from it. ECT consolidated its strong relationships in local communities, delivering food parcels and checking up on isolated and vulnerable people, as well as keeping essential transport running. In contrast, Belu’s activity stalled as the hospitality industry ground to a halt, but used this pause as an opportunity to refocus for the future.
Both businesses started the crisis from a solid financial position, which allowed them to continue to put mission first. And both leaders agree that purpose must come first to remain sustainable.
“I’ve had too much of the ‘my turnover is bigger than yours’ mentality,” Anna tells podcast co-hosts Tim West and Eddie Finch. “ For me, what is important is the social value that we create for our community.”
• You can hear more from Anna and Natalie Campbell by listening to the podcast on the Pioneers Post website.
Catching the bus to school probably seems like an everyday experience for many children and their families. You jump on at the bus stop, hop off again at school and the whole process is relatively routine and detached, perhaps not even exchanging a word of greeting with the driver.
But for Dorset Community Transport (DCT) – and the person running it, General Manager Tim Christian – there are some really important differences.
“As a community transport organisation, our school service is a lot more personal than a group of anonymous children going on an anonymous bus,” says Tim. “With us, in rural Dorset, we come to know the children, we get to know their families; there are siblings who’ve gone through the school and now their younger sibling is on the bus several years later.”
He continues: “Picking up children at a main road bus stop is very different from our service – where we might drive down a farm track and pick up three siblings, drive to the next farm and pick up two more and before you know it you’ve got half a bus-full!”
So when Covid-19 hit and the first lockdown was put in place earlier this year, there was a powerful sense of connection for all those working at DCT with those local rural communities and the families and individuals living in them.
“When lockdown came, getting that child to school because mum’s a doctor or dad works at the chemist – they were all personal stories,” says Tim. “That level of knowledge that the drivers have of their local families, particularly when there were fewer people travelling – it really shone through.
“Our service is part of the rural community. So for all the team at DCT, we really felt strongly that sense of community and service in that period of anxiety and uncertainty for everyone. It really brought home that personalised approach and the relationship we have with our communities.”
Despite an initial feeling of having “the rug pulled from under our feet” back in March, Tim says the well-drilled DCT team quickly assessed the challenges of the situation to ensure that staff and passengers were protected and safe but could also continue with the services that were needed.
Several services carried on as before, albeit with fewer numbers. For example, children with special needs and the children of key workers still needed to travel to school; while the door-to-door PlusBus and rural community bus services continued uninterrupted, helping elderly and isolated residents visit their GP or get to the shops for essential supplies.
The team also found new ways in which they could provide support, such as calling their regular passengers who were ‘shielding’ from the coronavirus to say hello and check they were ok.
While DCT’s parent organisation in London, Ealing Community Transport, was busy pivoting its operation to make tens of thousands of food deliveries in partnership with other charities and Ealing Borough Council , in Dorset the local authorities already had the bulk of food deliveries covered.
“Whilst I extended our charity’s offer of “Here to Help” across Dorset’s community sector, Dorset as a rural county was very different – the combined efforts of the local councils and the overwhelming volunteer response throughout communities saw all those needs met,” explains Tim.
Nevertheless, DCT was still able to lend a helping hand to a local food bank. “Their service had reached a whole new way of operating under the circumstances – food banks don’t deliver and yet because people were shielding, their vulnerable clients found themselves unable to pick up the food supplies. So it was good to be able to offer that service free of charge to them, they were hugely appreciative of it.”
In terms of team logistics, DCT’s drivers were already home-based, but the demands on them during lockdown were extremely varied depending on local circumstances. “We had some drivers who were shielding and some who were willing to work but their route didn’t run,” explains Tim. “But we’ve also got drivers who worked every single school day, all through school holidays and for some even on bank holidays.”
From 24th March staff at the Blandford Forum office also worked from home bar two people who lived locally, and they provided operational support from the office throughout. “Holiday, term time, right through to September. We worked solid but they covered the office,” says Tim.
Meanwhile, for Tim himself, there was both professional and personal pressure to contend with. “Working from home, my goodness!” he reflects. “I am used to having a printer within arm’s reach and everyone in earshot in the office, and suddenly I’d gone to a very minimised set-up at home.
“But also what that did show was our resilience as an organisation: our IT system, our phone system, the team spirit of the operations team – we adjusted and settled in and we cracked on with it!”
In a strange turn of fortunes, while Tim now found himself working at home rather than the office, his wife Caroline’s home-based hair salon business had “stopped instantly” under the lockdown restrictions, so she was now focused on home-schooling, supporting the special educational needs of their son Luke.
“In fact my son Luke actually welcomed the continued school day routine – and that was a blessing because I could work from home uninterrupted and shut myself away,” says Tim. “It was quite nice to join him and my wife for lunch and we often went out for our 3 o’clock afternoon permitted walk together,” he adds.
While family life was different, Tim was also adapting to changes in how he had to deliver his responsibilities as General Manager.
“I was very conscious that there was the need to go out to exchange paperwork with the drivers, replenish PPE and cleaning materials but I wanted to do that myself,” he says.
“I wanted to meet drivers face to face to see how they were – and I wanted them to see me so that they didn’t feel that we were all sat at home, while they were all out on the front line. It was important to let them know I appreciated what they were doing and to make sure they remained genuinely willing and able to do it.”
Overall, concedes Tim, the Covid-19 situation has certainly been a challenge. “After so many months of continuous change it’s been tough going,” he says. “Everybody talks about the ‘new normal’ but I say it is the ‘new normal for this week’ and then the ‘new normal for next week’ – it’s a new normal that’s forever evolving!”
Despite the challenges, however, he says the team has remained overwhelmingly positive. He reflects that this is partly to do with team spirit and partly about the professionalism of the charity itself: “It was a case of, ‘Come on guys we’ve got a job to do – we’ve got to get these kids to school, we’ve got services to run, we’ve got PlusBus passengers that need to get their shopping.’ We overcame those initial challenges and made it happen, albeit with a whole new different way of working.
“At HQ there was a robust approach to everything, whether it was interpreting the next piece of new guidance from the government or the need for risk assessments, or more supplies of hand sanitiser,” he adds. “We knew that everything had been thought through and our position on every point had been through a rigorous process. This meant that I could share it with confidence and we could instil confidence within the operation.”
Tim says that this confidence and positivity is also hugely important for the organisation as it deals with however the next few months happen to unfold.
“We have shown that the operation can stand firm during testing times and that our whole way of operating has stood the test of the past months,” he says.
“Whatever gets thrown at us, we’ve proven we can get through this – and we stand ready for whatever the future can throw at us!”
When Elizabeth Amzil began work as a primary school teacher in Ealing back in September 2000, she was full of ambition and hope for her new career.
“When you are involved with teaching – or any other public services – you enter these professions with drive and a mission to right the wrongs of the world!” Elizabeth explains.
Her teaching career progressed well for more than a decade; she even became involved in setting up a brand new school. But all that changed in 2014, when the health of her parents started rapidly to go downhill.
With her father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, her mother becoming increasingly frail and anxious, and her sister also vulnerable with severe learning difficulties, Elizabeth felt there was no option but to “down tools and take on my parents’ and sister’s care”.
She recalls: “I was teaching in Ealing and helping to set up a school in Hounslow. But I was getting phone calls during teaching from my mother to come at once, and it was getting unpredictable… I always promised my parents that I would stop and look after them and take on board my sister Susan’s care – it was a big wrench, but I had to tell my colleagues I could no longer continue, and I had to give up the teaching.”
During the past six years Elizabeth and husband Stephen, who live in Ealing Common, have kept Elizabeth’s promise and spent much of their time on care duty at her parents’ home in Acton, where the top floor has also been converted into a flat for Elizabeth’s sister.
After her father sadly passed away in 2017, Elizabeth could still take her mother and sister out together to the shops or a local park. But when her mother suffered a stroke last year, trips out in the car were no longer possible. Now bedbound, her mother required a hoist to get out of bed and a special new wheelchair for transport – and transferring both her mother and the wheelchair into her car to go out was a task that Elizabeth could not manage.
“I was quite aware I wasn’t able to take Mum out and about anymore in the car,” says Elizabeth. “She’s paralysed all the way down the right side and she is right handed, and she’s not strong enough on her left hand side to compensate.
“Mum used to enjoy going out to Ealing Broadway, buying vegetables, going to the hair salon or the shopping centre, or having pizza in the café at Gunnersbury Park. Now she hasn’t really taken on board the gravity of the stroke and what it really means.”
Just after the special new wheelchair was delivered, Covid-19 struck and life became even more challenging.
“We were so trapped and locked up here within the four walls, it was awful – we were scared to go out and about,” reports Elizabeth. “Up until very recently, I’ve only been able to take my mother out in the wheelchair just up and down the road.”
Elizabeth had started researching whether there were any local charities who could help out – and she remembered Ealing Community Transport from her teaching days. “We used to hire them for our school,” she recalls, “And I remember actually learning to drive one of the green buses for a school trip – I had to pass a little test!
“I was looking on the ECT website, and I didn’t realise how much they had expanded. I often saw the buses going around with different types of groups they were helping out, including people using wheelchairs. So I phoned up ECT and asked if there was any way that me and my sister could be in the car and follow Mum in one of their buses. I was astonished when they said they could take Mum and me and my sister on the bus since she is disabled and I am the main carer – and they would take us anywhere we liked within the borough!
“We’ve been on two of the trips now,” reports Elizabeth. “Chiswick House with Kim driving and Kam as the assistant, and then we went to Kew, with Rob driving and Kim the assistant. ECT is able to strap mum in her chair, into the bus. I’m sitting next to her because she’s anxious so every bump and jolt I can hold her hand, reassuring her all the time. It was an absolute Godsend because they had Sue in the bus as well. The crew were very careful and wearing masks. It was just amazing!”
She continues: “It was actually the first trip we’ve been on since March 2019 because we had to wait a long time for her wheelchair. That last trip was also to Kew to see the orchid display in the Princess of Wales glass house – and a week or so later Mum had the stroke. So for us to go to Kew again was really good for us. We saw all the cactus plants and tropical plants, we had a look at the alpines which were beautiful, and we walked through the glass house and then the Orangery. We went to the shop and bought some Kew honey and something for my sister – it was really nice.
“With there being a driver and an assistant, it left me hands free to enjoy walking with them all. John and Kim were quite adamant they were happy to wheel Mum around and take on Sue’s anxieties and reassure her like I would do – and I was more or less free to have a look at the trees, the labels, read things and really enjoy going to a nice venue. I was just able to enjoy the trip a lot more without the stress and worry of being responsible for them totally on my own. It was a wonderful respite after shielding for so long.
“ECT also reassured me that if a crisis did crop up where Sue was becoming anxious or if my Mum was in pain, they would be able to take us back. This was impressive because I thought that might be a restriction for us. Susan has never been able to say, ‘I’m tired, can we go now,’ or ‘I’m not happy’ and instead she just becomes anxious. But ECT told me not to worry about that side of things and that they could be extremely flexible – I was delighted that they were able to do this, because it restored a bit of normality for my mother and for me as well.”
Elizabeth says that the ability to go out again has “made an absolutely huge difference” to her mother’s spirits. “I asked Mum, ‘Did you enjoy going out?’, ‘Oh yes,’ she said.
“I don’t like seeing my mum worried and sad,” says Elizabeth. “It used to be so easy to make her laugh and make her happy, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. So to give her this hope of going out again, the three of us, is such a Godsend. It’s given me hope and I was able to pass that hope onto my Mum, and my sister as well.”
Now they are thinking about future trips – and also of using the ECT PlusBus service for GP appointments and to visit the shopping centre.
“I hope we can continue to make use of ECT’s services, it’s something for us to look forward to,” says Elizabeth. “If lots of people got to know about this service I think ECT would be inundated! I do feel we are privileged that we have been able to find out about this and that they are willing to help us out in this way.
“I just find it extraordinary that there is such an organisation – we were really stuck, to tell you the truth, really, really stuck. We had come to a full stop. And it was just a breath of fresh air to find ECT and be able to do something that we always used to do.”
It’s home to one of the National Trust’s most important art collections and boasts gardens celebrated as a ‘horticultural masterpiece’. But it also sits amidst 8,500 acres of parkland – so visiting without a car is a challenge.
Now, however, locals seeking a special day out can enjoy a trip to Kingston Lacy just by hopping aboard the ‘Little Green Bus’ operated by Dorset Community Transport (DCT).
The National Trust announced this week that the opulent home built to resemble a Venetian palace in the middle of the Dorset countryside was now part of DCT’s bus service 88, which serves Wimborne Minster, Colehill, Pamphill and Sturminster Marshall.
Thanks to support from Wimborne Minster Town Council, Wimborne BID, Sturminster Marshall Parish Council and Colehill Parish Council, Service 88 was successfully reintroduced by DCT in 2017 and since then has been going from strength to strength, providing a lifeline for local residents.
It now runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and will include a regular stop at Kingston Lacy, which is just outside Wimborne.
There’s plenty to see at the 17th Century property, from spectacular artworks by Rubens, Van Dyck and Titian, and the UK’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts, to a formal Japanese garden and authentic tea house. The vast estate includes colourful heathland, 12 way-marked footpaths, Iron Age hill forts and the world’s oldest pedigree herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle.
Tim Turner, General Manager at Kingston Lacy, said: “Our location means that we are difficult to get to if you don’t own a car and so we are thrilled that this new and enhanced bus service will enable members of the community, be it visitors or volunteers, to get to us much more easily and inexpensively.”
He added: “Providing access to safe outdoor spaces where people can relax and enjoy spending time in nature has never been more important as we navigate the ongoing pandemic. We are excited that this new regular bus service will mean more local people can benefit from spending time in the Kingston Lacy garden and parkland.”
Tim Christian, General Manager at DCT, said: “We are delighted to add this destination to our timetable for this much-valued local bus service, especially when we’ve also increased to running three days weekly.
“DCT’s local bus services help connect communities, often with no other public transport available to them, to their local town facilities, enabling residents who might otherwise be lonely and isolated access vital services. For some, meeting friends or family in town, or simply the time spent on the bus, may be their only social interaction that week. With the challenges that 2020 has brought, this is as important today as it has ever been.”
He added: “We continue to work hard to ensure that we operate within government guidelines to keep everyone safe on their journey. This currently means face coverings are compulsory, unless a passenger is exempt, and there are limits to the number of passengers who can board the bus at any one time.”
Service 88 timetables – and details of all other local bus services – are available by clicking here. Further information about the range of DCT’s services can be found here. Please also check the National Trust website for what’s open.
As we head into mid-Autumn – and another phase in the ongoing pandemic – Anna Whitty MBE, Chief Executive at ECT shares some thoughts about the vital role that ECT Charity continues to play in supporting its communities; and to pay tribute to our superb team, and the resilience and commitment that they are demonstrating every day as we navigate the challenges presented to us.
First, I am immensely proud of the way in which our teams have handled the return to schools. September is always challenging for us, and this year has been particularly complex. Yet the teams handled things brilliantly; everybody was pleased to be back and just getting on with what needed to be done, resulting in positive feedback from local authorities.
I would especially like to welcome back our ‘shielders’; I have so admired the incredible positivity they have shown in coming back to work, getting on with their roles – and, of course, embracing the precautions and different working practices to keep our workplace ‘Covid-secure’.
Everybody has been through Covid training so they are all up to speed. The wiping down/ cleaning regimes are of course continuing – the responsibility of each driver throughout the day. Bottles of sanitiser are fitted in each bus, and every member of staff has received a pack of five uniform face coverings. Across the charity, we are confident that both the processes and the equipment are in place to keep ourselves and our passengers safe – so that we can focus on looking after the most vulnerable people in our community with the professionalism that our communities have come to expect of us.
The second observation I would like to share is that, despite the return of our teams and of several services, it is clear we are not yet experiencing a ‘new normal’; as we are all aware, what ‘normal’ looks like is shifting from week to week, and we must be prepared to deal with this changing situation perhaps for many more months.
What does this mean for our charity? Certainly, it presents ongoing challenges. But there is good reason to be positive; our board of trustees are confident in the solid foundations that we have laid down as an organisation – our excellent staff, our strong values, and the trusting relationships we have developed with local authorities and our communities.
As individuals, it is so important that we do our best to maintain this trust; not only by following the safety guidance while at work but also outside work. We have promised a safe environment and we must do everything individually to keep it so. Although the risk to most of our staff is low, for the sake of our colleagues and our passengers – most of whom are very vulnerable – we must all do our bit, and stay vigilant. So much is at stake, and so much would be lost if the reputation and trust we have built were to be undermined.
Of course, the ability to get out and about, and to regain that sense of connection having been isolated from friends, family and our communities, is very much at the heart of our charitable aims.
Earlier this month the United Nations marked the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons; among the stories from around the world, I was moved by an article in the Guardian newspaper featuring Captain Sir Tom Moore, who has added the accolade of becoming ‘the UK’s oldest podcaster’ to his list of honours, as part of a campaign by Age UK to tackle loneliness among older people.
“My mission is simple but important,” the former British army officer, who turned 100 in April, told the Guardian. “I hope The Originals podcast will help encourage everyone to start a proper conversation with an older person.”
Age UK reports that more than 200,000 older people typically go for a week without speaking to anyone – as we know at ECT, the effects of loneliness can be devastating. “Since the outbreak many older people are feeling anxious, depressed and lonely,” said Laurie Boult, the fundraising director at Age UK. “It’s so hard for many older people to stay connected at the moment, especially if they live alone.”
The huge difference that we can make as a charity in helping to address these problems, is evident from the many stories that have featured on our website, especially during the last six months. As one of our volunteers, Chris Wiggins, said in the first of our new ‘Hidden Heroes’ stories on the ECT website: "I knew I was adding some real value to their lives at the most basic level – fuel for the body and human contact for the soul."
And like another, our most recent ‘Hidden Hero’ Farah Salim, we take the challenges in our stride, because we are confident in our professionalism and, ultimately, because bringing some happiness to those in need is what we are all about.
While delivering food parcels provided a big new role for us during the lockdown, a key focus for us now will be to combat the increased levels of loneliness and isolation that Covid-19 has created. Our new programme of outings is already making a difference. These outings are an important new way in which we can help. We have chosen places where people said they wanted to go to (and the ones that made us feel welcome!), and the feedback from those who have not been out for months has been heart-warming.
As always, we’re getting the word out to our local communities that we’re here to help. If you can think of somebody who might need access to transport or would like a day out, please get in touch.
2020 has been a tough year – but ECT is delighted to be supporting a fellow Ealing charity this month as it recognises the contribution that older people make to our community, despite the current challenges.
To mark the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, Age UK Ealing has produced celebratory mugs for all its members, with a special message thanking them “for who you are and what you do”.
“We know that the months ahead might not be easy as we continue to struggle against Covid-19,” reads the message on the mug, “but please know that Age UK Ealing is here for you, values you, and looks forward to seeing you again soon.”
As a key partner with the charity, ECT is pleased to be echoing these sentiments – and helping with the celebrations by delivering more than 100 of the mugs to individuals across the borough.
One such delivery was particularly heart-warming this week – as ECT driver Malcolm Hatfield made a very personal trip to give an Age UK mug to none other than his elderly father, Charles Hatfield (see photo).
Not only is Charles a member of Age UK but he has been using ECT’s minibuses to get out and about in Ealing for the past two-and-a-half years.
“ECT are always on time and reliable, and the drivers are patient and chatty,” reports Charles. He adds that a recent trip to Kew Gardens was “really well organised and enjoyable – it was really good that they thought to provide both a wheelchair and a blanket. If they did ratings I would give them 10 out of 10!”
Malcolm has actually only driven his dad once as an ECT driver. But his father’s positive experience using the ECT PlusBus – which took Charles to the local supermarket in Alperton to buy his groceries – was one of the key reasons he decided to work for the charity in the first place.
Offered another job working for a supermarket delivery firm, Malcolm felt that working for a local charity that took elderly people to buy their own supplies would have a much more positive impact.
“I was 40 years in the printing industry and then when my mum passed away I was keen to find a new job which gave something back to the community,” he says. “I was also very touched seeing nurses looking after mum so when I had the option of delivering groceries for a grocer or helping actual people, I decided to work for ECT. I would much rather, towards the end of my working life, do something where I am contributing in a really positive way.”
During lockdown earlier this year, Malcolm was part of the ECT crew making thousands of food deliveries on behalf of both the council and several charities across the borough.
Reginald Parkinson, Chief Executive of Age UK Ealing, said this month’s celebration was also a way to say ‘thank you’ to staff, volunteers, funders and partners such as ECT who had supported them through the pandemic.
“We are very grateful to ECT – not just for the passion they have for helping vulnerable people but for all the hard work that goes with it, particularly over recent weeks,” he said.
“ECT doesn’t just provide transport. They have a very good understanding of all the needs of the individual clients, particularly those who are very vulnerable and frail. They are patient, friendly and professional – every single one of them. The way they work with us and with the elderly people is great to watch.”
ECT’s long-standing relationship with Age UK Ealing would normally involve regular minibus transport for elderly, isolated people to the charity’s day centre in Greenford, where in pre-Covid times they could socialise, get a hot meal for lunch and take part in a range of activities, from singing and knitting to armchair yoga.
During lockdown, the charity quickly adapted its services to support people at home, keeping them company on the phone, answering their queries and connecting them with additional support such as food and medication.
More details about Age UK Ealing and its celebration of the International Day of Older Persons can be found here.
Read about our work with Age UK Ealing during Covid-19 in our story, ECT food deliveries top 10,000 thanks to partnerships across the borough.
Until March 2020, Farah Salim had worked part-time as a passenger assistant at ECT, helping children taking their morning and afternoon minibuses to and from school.
Between school runs, she also helped out at Dormers Well Junior School, near where she lives in Southall.
“I’ve always worked with children,” says Farah. “I work part-time mornings and afternoons with ECT, and I work in the school in-between.”
Herself a single mum of two daughters and a son, all now in their 20s, Farah is clearly highly experienced with children – and she also understands both the joys and demands that caring and educating children entails.
But when asked about the more challenging sides of the job, it’s noticeable how she simply shrugs these off with a smile: “I love the children – I like the challenges,” she answers.
When the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in in Ealing – and across the UK – in March, it’s perhaps no surprise that Farah took things in her stride.
Normal school runs ceased, as did her work at Dormers Well School. But there were two areas where ECT needed Farah’s help – transporting the children of key workers to school, and as a crew member in the massive operation to deliver food parcels to lonely and isolated elderly people in need.
Taking key worker children to school may not seem very different from normal – but the cloud of Covid-19 often called for extra sensitivity.
“Some children didn’t like going to school because only a few of them were going each day,” explains Farah. “Sometimes the children became upset but the parents needed their children to go to school because they were a key person.”
In such circumstances, Farah focused on reassuring them and staying cheerful, something that was easier given the strong relationships already established. “In normal times, when the children see us they are very happy,” says Farah. “They ask us, ‘When are you coming to collect us?’ Some of them don’t want to go home but just stay on the bus!”
The food deliveries, on the other hand, were a completely new experience for all the ECT staff involved.
“I worked on food deliveries every day when they started – Monday to Friday and sometimes Saturday and Sunday as well,” Farah says.
Modest to a tee, what she does not reveal is that she did not only work almost every day of the week – but in fact she worked all the way through the lockdown, and made more food deliveries than any other passenger assistant in the charity.
“I felt a little bit nervous for the first two weeks but after that I got used to it,” she says. “We had all the PPE [personal protective equipment] and everything that we needed… It was good teamworking – the drivers were very helpful and always helped me if I needed it.”
Far from being a worry, she found the work very satisfying: “I enjoyed it,” she says. “We went to many different houses and some people were stuck living in very big buildings – and they were very happy when we dropped the food.”
Farah recounts one food parcel delivery that she made to an apartment block in Acton. “It’s a very tall building with something like 21 floors and the lift was out of order,” she says. “I took the food upstairs to one lady who was very old. She lived on the 17th floor – and she was so surprised to see me! She asked, ‘How can you come up all those stairs?’ She was so happy and grateful, and blessed me for coming up to her – so I was very happy too.”
Farah adds that the teamwork at ECT also made a big difference, especially during such challenging times: “Sometimes the food parcels were very heavy to take up the stairs but the driver always helped me,” she says.
“There was also an occasion when we discovered that somebody was allergic to milk and so Anthony, the driver, went and bought lactose-free milk to give to them – and they were very happy.”
The food delivery days were intense, particularly when they first started. The two-person ECT teams would deliver between 35 and 40 parcels each day, all across the borough, starting before 9am and finishing late afternoon.
“The first week I was quite tired but then I got used to it,” says Farah. “I lost weight as well! I worked in lots of very tall buildings – and always used the stairs.
“Even though it was sometimes tiring I enjoyed it. People were very happy when we brought them food – so I forgot my tiredness and I felt very happy as well.”
Driver Anthony Kelly (pictured above and below), who has partnered with Farah on the school minibus since 2016, was pleased that they were able to stay together as a team during the lockdown: “Everybody wants to work with her!” he says.
“Usually we take children with special educational needs to Springhallow School – Farah is very good with the kids and knows how to manage them. She helps them if they are upset and she can wind them down when they are all excited. We were both missing the children when the schools closed,” he says.
“But when that stopped during the lockdown we had an opportunity to help out with the Ealing Together project, dropping emergency food parcels to people around the borough,” says Anthony.
“She was just as great working with the older and vulnerable people we met during the food deliveries. She made sure those in the ‘shielded’ group were looked after; she always took care to check that they were receiving the right parcels – particularly when there were special dietary needs. After all what good is tinned meat to a vegan or rich tea biscuits to a coeliac? Farah always understood that.”
Anthony describes Farah as “very warm and caring” with passengers and team members alike – sometimes bringing in cakes to share, for example, or making a cuppa for colleagues after a long shift.
But despite these gestures she “never seeks any attention,” he emphasises. “I always knew Farah was great at looking after children on the bus – now I know that Farah is simply great at looking after everyone!”
For her part, Farah describes ECT as "a very happy team”. She explains: “If anyone is stuck or has a problem, they can call the office, who sort it out. If anything happens on our school run, they say don’t worry. They give you support."
“It would be very hard for the community if ECT didn’t exist,” she says. “The charity plays a big part in this community and gives so much support. I am very proud to be part of ECT.”
Do you know someone who needs transport, please get in touch!
When lockdown started at the end of March, I found myself in the unusual position of having both spare time and spare energy. My previous full-time role, fantastic for eight years, had recently ended with redundancy and so for the first time in 25 years I really didn’t know what the coming weeks or months would bring – how would I use my time and skills in 2020?
Although blessed with a lovely home and garden where I live with my wife and two daughters, I knew by early April that I was feeling restless – and with good reason. I simply didn’t feel at ease with my relaxed situation whilst knowing that so many other people were already in need of help. I was healthy and available to volunteer, so what to do?
We had a family chat and concluded that I wouldn’t step forward to join the NHS recruitment list – we had siblings and close friends already working as medical professionals and at that time didn’t feel comfortable adding to our personal risk. My daughters needed me to be present and healthy to support their home schooling and general welfare whilst Mum worked from home – like many – glued to Zoom meetings most of the day. But I knew this pandemic wasn’t something I could just watch happen on TV from my own microcosm; I needed to be involved and to do my bit to help the community.
The right opportunity literally presented itself over the garden fence one evening. Our next door neighbour has been a driver with ECT for several years and called over to me to say they were looking for volunteers as they had a busy Easter weekend coming up. The charity had answered an SOS from the local council to repurpose the ECT fleet of green minibuses to deliver food parcels to the elderly and vulnerable. Driver numbers were already sufficient from existing employees but without a second crew member per vehicle the key element of keeping the crew safe and providing human contact to each resident would be severely compromised. Quite simply, they needed capable volunteers and they were needed from tomorrow.
The next morning’s alarm announced the start of my new role. Although delighted to have this new purpose in my life, there was a great sense of worry from my family as I left our ‘bubble’ to enter the new dangerous world of Covid 19. As we walked – at social distance – to the Greenford depot, my neighbour reassured me that although the facilities were far from glamorous they were very clean and PPE was in good supply. The key to staying safe was to use common sense.
The first briefing provided further comfort to me; clearly the supervising manager had been very thorough with preparations and the 16 crew members were all being careful with space and contact.
So to the task in hand – each pairing was provided with their list of Ealing Borough residents who had been identified by the council as in need of food and milk. Some had specifically labelled bags to satisfy their own special dietary requirements – for example, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free. Crucially, my role was not just to ensure they got the right food supplied – I was to chat with them to check they were safe and ok, making a note of any extra support or medical help to pass back to the Council.
As our loaded bus left the depot and we headed for the first address I sat in the back and wondered what challenges I’d encounter as each door was answered. How to strike the balance between being warm and friendly to everyone but to ensure we remained on time? I feared getting stuck on the doorstep for an hour as a lovely old lady realised she had someone to talk to for the first time in ages – how I could say, “No, sorry I’ve got to go!” to someone who clearly was so lonely?
My thoughts inevitably returned to my late Grandmother – I’ve missed her so much over the last two years but felt thankful she didn’t have to encounter Covid as her weak lungs wouldn’t have had a chance. Well up a bit, give a contemplative sigh.
I tried to retain focus as we arrived outside the first address, a terrace house in West Ealing. Gloves – check. High vis vest – check. Clipboard – check. Double check the house number and name… who are we visiting first?
As the minibus stopped, I grabbed a weighty bag of provisions in my right hand – mostly tinned food, tea, sliced bread and a four-pinter of milk. Slide the side door open with left hand, shuffle forward to exit and then half trip over the bag and nearly slip down the step. Slow down, be careful Chris!
The trick here clearly was going to be finding the right technique and system. Next stage. Put the bag and milk down first – making sure the front door can still open. Ring the bell – did it actually ring? Knock on the door loudly. Take eight steps back. Wait. Wait a bit more. I think I can see movement. Yes, great. Door opens cautiously. Warm smile.
“Hello Indira – I’ve got your food delivery for you from the Council.”
“Oh Thank you so much dear, that’s really wonderful.”
“How are you? Is everything ok?”
“Well, I’m feeling really fed up with it all – being stuck here not being able to see my friends and family anymore. I just don’t know what to do or how long this is going to go on for? I’m worried.”
“Yes, it’s completely rotten isn’t it? All we can do is stay safe and help each other where we can. Have you had a few telephone calls? Have you got neighbours looking out for you? Do you need anything else urgently?”
This first exchange was fairly typical of many of the conversations with residents I met across the last few months. An overwhelming feeling that this time in our lives was unprecedented and it was simply unfair – the invisible bug generally hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.
The sense of satisfaction I got from delivering the food and providing a few minutes of company to each resident we visited was significant. I knew I was adding some real value to their lives at the most basic level – fuel for the body and human contact for the soul.
I remember those who were in the most difficult situations: the man with a broken leg, the guy who was waiting for his heart bypass to be rescheduled and, especially, the lady with throat cancer who accused me personally of threatening to stop her food deliveries! Her potty mouth will stay with me for a while – despite the fact that I left her with a smile on her face having reassured her everything was in hand and ok.
As I’ve enjoyed the beautiful warm evening sunshine in my garden during the summer, I’ve remembered ironically how the heat we’ve had has actually made life so much worse for some and how I wish I could do more to fix the many challenges I’ve seen. For the lifts to their 11th floor flat to be fixed. For the stairwell to be clean of litter and not stink of urine. For the noise and smog from the adjacent A40 to be less (how bad must it be in normal times?). For the flies and putrid smell that originate from the dirty shop bins to be no more.
Of course, there was some light relief along the way. I recall the conversation with Charles, a war veteran who was so desperate for a chat that he insisted that I must talk him through the full contents of his bag…
“Here’s a packet of rice.”
“How do you cook that then?”
“You just boil it in a saucepan of water.”
“No I really can’t be doing with that. Have you got me any rice pudding though? I like that. Yes – you have – good lad you’ve looked after me there, eh.”
The majority of beneficiaries were those in troubled times and fairly depressing surroundings. But my conscience has been stirred and I now find myself grappling with other unanswered questions, frustrations and guilt. Why have I not done more charity work before? Why is society not more caring? Why do I have the right to all that I have when others have so little? Am I just another selfish human being?
When Ealing Council couldn’t make contact with residents shielding from Covid-19 across the borough, it turned to community transport charity Ealing Community Transport (ECT) to check they were okay
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the government wrote to more than 1.5 million people across the country whom it considered particularly vulnerable, and asked them to ‘shield’ in their homes for 12 weeks.
As part of this strategy, it told every local authority to get in touch with the ‘shielders’ in their area, to check they were okay and to make sure they had access to any support – such as food and medical supplies – that they required.
But it soon became apparent that there was an additional challenge for these local authorities: a significant minority of those on the shielding list were not responding to letters or picking up their phones. This meant that thousands of vulnerable people were unaccounted for and potentially at risk.
Nowhere was this more apparent, perhaps, than at Ealing Council, which was in the unenviable position of having the highest number of shielders of any London borough, at 22,000.
One of those leading the team tasked with solving this challenge was Adam Whalley. Normally assistant director for the council’s capital investment programme, with a day job working on major construction projects, as the lockdown began, Adam now found himself drafted in as ‘tactical lead’ co-ordinating logistics for the council’s community response to the Covid-19 crisis.
“We set up a customer management system and attempted to call everybody on the shielding list three times. When that didn’t get a result, we wrote to people and said please contact us,” Adam explains.
“But we ended up with a final cohort of people we weren’t able to get through to. We had a duty of care to these residents whom we were told were vulnerable and needed support; so the next step was to visit them at their address.
“We looked at the options but quite quickly came to the position that ECT were the best organisation for us to partner with. They had already been doing a really good job with the food deliveries around the borough and, as ever, they were keen to support us. We had a really great relationship with Anna Whitty, the CEO, and her team and they were pretty much immediately appointed as our delivery partner for the operation.”
The council agreed a short script that the ECT team would use, along with a checklist to establish residents’ needs and a letter to hand-deliver, asking residents to get in touch with the council for a more detailed chat on the phone.
“It sounds straightforward but there were quite a lot of risks involved, particularly given that these people were vulnerable and all the considerations about how we would talk to them at the doorstep,” says Adam. “There were various concerns around safeguarding, and we also had to consider the well-being of ECT staff.
“We rolled it out with ECT in batches of several hundred at a time. The ECT staff had a clip board with boxes to tick around what happened – was the person there, were they able to answer the questions – and in some cases they spoke to neighbours. ECT also collated all that information into spreadsheets and fed this data back to us.”
The first visits took place on Thursday, 30th April and continued until shielders were told restrictions had been lifted at the beginning of August.
Daniel Stringer, who normally works as a Dial-a-Ride driver for ECT, was a member of one of the two-person teams going out on the regular welfare visits. He says he really valued the experience and the responsibility that he was entrusted with.
“We were doing about 30 names on a list about three times a week, for several weeks, covering a wide range of properties, from big houses in north Ealing to tower blocks and much poorer areas in places like Southall,” Daniel says. “There was a real determination to do everything we could to find out if someone was living there and how they were.
“The approach had to be open, inquisitive, caring and we had to get that across really quickly because the wrong impression early on could close the whole thing down. If we knocked on the door and there was no answer, we needed to find neighbours, or ask people living across the road.”
There were several times which stand out in Daniel’s memory when he felt he made a real difference. On one occasion he called an ambulance on discovering that a woman who appeared not to be in had fallen over outside. On another, he gave a food package (carried on the minibus for such emergencies) to a woman who seemed fearful and low on supplies. Another time Daniel was able to offer some company and conversation to a lonely and isolated man who had lost his wife three years before.
Such incidents were also noted back at ECT headquarters, where CEO Anna Whitty was able to share them with Ealing Council’s support teams.
“It may seem like an odd and perhaps a selfish thing to say because this has been an awful time but I have kind of thrived on it,” says Daniel. “I have not had to furlough, I’ve not had to stop working or been ill. It’s almost like having had training for an event you could never imagine coming but then the event comes and we at ECT are really well placed to deal with it – working for people who are isolated, lack mobility, perhaps need food, need to use a safe transport system, we are so well placed to deal with it,” he explains.
“ECT has such a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, and a really strategic approach to solving problems. Like the emergency services, ECT really cares about the people they are supporting but they deal with things in that stripped down, cool-headed way. I am part of that and have had that training.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at ECT and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve learned – but just recently it’s gone up a gear. We barely skipped a beat during these months; my appreciation of how the organisation works has increased and it’s made my enjoyment of ECT greater because I can see what a difference the organisation is able to make.”
All in all, says Ealing Council’s Adam Whalley, the welfare visits have proved to be “a highly successful exercise”. Some 1,567 visits were ‘attempted’ during the three months, and the latest data indicates that 73% of visits were successful, resulting in the needs of over 1,100 people being assessed and updated.
“ECT really embraced this initiative as another area they were able to help us with,” comments Adam. “They have been highly professional and very business-like – able to meet deadlines and produce all the data we needed. We had a lot of commitments to government to get data back to them and ECT were really able to cope with the rigour that was needed with that type of approach.
“When the more compassionate, softer skills were needed they were also really well placed to provide that to our residents.
“I think that’s partly why Anna [Whitty] and the whole organisation were so behind it all – like myself and colleagues in the council, we all knew the value in what we were doing and we were all really enthusiastic about wanting to help our residents. It really did feel like a team effort, not ‘Ealing Council and ECT’ but that we were all working towards a common goal.
“We already had a very strong and positive relationship based on ECT’s existing day job delivering accessible transport; but certainly they will have strengthened that relationship through this process.”
At the beginning of April, two Ealing charities struck up a partnership to turn an essential food lifeline into a lockdown delivery service. Three months later, ECT has just made its 1,000th delivery for Ealing Foodbank – and shipped more than 12 tonnes of food to hungry families in the process.
Foodbanks are an absolute lifeline for hungry families and individuals who have fallen on hard times. But for single parents living miles away from the only open distribution centre, or those stuck inside shielding from the coronavirus, accessing that lifeline has been more difficult than ever during the past months of UK lockdown.
Thanks to a special delivery service by charities Ealing Foodbank and Ealing Community Transport (ECT) working together as part of the Ealing Together partnership, hundreds of local families and individuals have been able to keep the wolf from the door.
Twice a week, every week since the beginning of April, ECT’s buses have loaded up with half a tonne of food and other essential supplies, such as toiletries and nappies, and weaved their way across the borough, dropping them off at people’s front doors.
Ealing Foodbank has a clear mission: “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry.” Part of a nationwide network of foodbanks supported by The Trussell Trust, it provides nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people in crisis who are referred by a wide range of different organisations – from council welfare services, to schools and GP surgeries.
While this mission could not perhaps have been more critical during recent months, the challenge of fulfilling it was tested from the beginning. Janet Fletcher, manager of Ealing Foodbank, explains that when the lockdown was imposed on 23 March, her team had no option but to close centres across the borough – in Southall, Northolt, Acton, Greenford and Ealing Green.
Only one centre has remained open: St Mellitus Hall in Hanwell. But opening times have had to be restricted, and those referred to the service have had to queue outside, come rain or shine – with some shelter in the form of a garden gazebo! – while staff fetched their supplies. It’s a far cry from the normal set-up, in which Foodbank visitors could come inside for a sit down, a warm drink and someone to talk to, and volunteers could signpost them to agencies able to solve their longer-term issues.
But times of great challenge can also be opportunities for innovation and partnership – and St Mellitus has also become a distribution centre for twice-weekly home delivery runs made by ECT minibuses.
“Home delivery is available on Tuesday or Friday and is an essential service for many of those who are referred to us,” says Janet. “We ask what people want, receive requests and create a list for the delivery day, which we then send to ECT. ECT do all the hard work to calculate how many buses we need, what routes they will take – I don’t know how they do it but somehow it works!”
The Foodbank and ECT had talked before about a possible partnership – but the coronavirus provided the catalyst to turn talk into action.
“I knew [chief executive] Anna Whitty through being involved in Ealing Together,” says Janet. “It’s just been brilliant to have ECT making our deliveries. We have all had to adapt and change the way we do things but I am just really grateful for ECT’s engagement in helping us get the deliveries out there. I think the way the charities have pulled together in all sorts of ways has been quite heart-warming.”
Charities are often thought of as being “warm and fuzzy” by the general public, observes Janet – but she says the level of professionalism and organisation displayed by both ECT and Ealing Foodbank is something to be admired and appreciated.
“In a way I think I have been surprised that ECT is a charity,” she admits. “It comes across as being very well organised but also having such strong values… I think one of the big differences between ECT and a commercial delivery service, for example, is that we can build in time with ECT. The pressure isn’t on targets or doing a number of deliveries in a certain amount of time – it is about valuing staff and volunteers, and about wanting to get food to somebody in need.”
She recounts one instance where somebody lived in a tenth-floor flat and could not come down to collect the food for health reasons – but the ECT team made sure it was delivered to the front door, even if it was on the tenth floor.
Now that that lockdown restrictions are easing, the Foodbank is also working on getting things back to normal. But with many of its volunteers over 70, its other locations around the borough are likely to be closed for a while yet. The ‘new normal’ will need different solutions, and Janet is hoping that the delivery service will be able to continue.
For ECT, it’s an important example – among many during the crisis – of the way in which community transport can provide solutions for the most vulnerable and needy in society, and another partnership that it is keen to maintain and develop into the future.
As Chief Executive Anna Whitty MBE comments: “So many people are living near or below the breadline and Covid-19 has only worsened the situation, pushing more families and individuals into poverty. As we consider our role as a charity in establishing the ‘new normal’, we will continue to step up to the challenge, and to work with partners to support the most vulnerable in our communities.”
From shopping trips to appointments with the hairdresser – as communities prepare for the ‘new normal’, Anna Whitty MBE, Chief Executive at ECT, reflects on the key role that community transport must now play in supporting elderly and vulnerable people to reconnect safely with their communities, and get out and about with confidence after months in isolation.
A recent survey by the British Red Cross revealed that two in five UK adults felt lonelier under lockdown. Even more worrying, the survey found that 28% thought that nobody would notice if something happened to them, while 33% feared that their feelings of loneliness would get worse in the years ahead.
These figures bring into stark focus some of the longer-term issues that we will be facing following the Covid-19 lockdown.
As we all know, loneliness and isolation did not just appear as a result of the novel coronavirus. Ask anybody who works at ECT, and they will tell you that these issues are longstanding – and they will remain a major focus for our charity in the months and years to come.
Over the past few months, we have continued to work with councils, care homes and schools across our communities in west London, Cheshire and Dorset to ensure lifeline transport services have remained available and can be accessed safely. During the Covid-19 lockdown, however, certain services have ceased to be available for the community in their traditional form and ECT has stepped up to adapt so that these services could come to the homes of vulnerable members of our community.
ECT has taken the opportunity to partner with other organisations, including local voluntary sector organisations that we haven’t worked with before. Working in true partnership style with these organisations and local councils such as Ealing Council, we have undertaken welfare checks, delivered essential food parcels and distributed vital PPE.
As an organisation, we have stepped up. As individuals, our team has also stepped up – quite frankly, very bravely in those early days – to ensure, for example, that no one in Ealing went without food during those scary weeks at the height of the pandemic. This is even more remarkable when you consider that, at the time, Ealing found itself near the national epicentre of Covid-19 cases. We were “saving lives”, said the Leader of Ealing Council at the time.
Right now, as we move towards the ‘new normal’, there is a crucial job to do to support many hundreds of people across the different parts of the UK where we operate to help them get back to their daily lives and reconnect with their local communities.
ECT and the wider community transport sector must focus on how we help people to go out, remain independent and be able to socialise with others. The form this will take will need to evolve and adapt to respond to the progression of the pandemic but our role during this period is to help make this happen. To be positive and committed in the way that we provide essential transport that is Covid-secure and steers a safe journey back to normality.
As our communities begin to emerge from their homes cautiously, our work as a charity, especially in combatting loneliness and isolation, will be more important than ever. I think lockdown has given us all a renewed understanding of the devastating impact of loneliness and isolation and how much we value being able to leave our homes and retain our independence. I am personally determined to keep our passengers – our beneficiaries – at the forefront of our planning for the shorter and longer term.
The good news is that we are in a strong position to do this. Our values as a charity, our track record of professionalism and commitment before the lockdown, our fantastic team and the partnerships and trust we have built during these challenging times, give us confidence that we can be leaders on the ‘front line’ in helping our communities get back to life.
As a charity we must not lose sight of our mission.
We have undertaken numerous risk assessments based on the ever-changing situation and on government guidance. This will be the continuing norm – ECT is, and will continue to be, ‘Covid-secure’ by following guidance and implementing necessary mitigations.
We have written to our passengers across the regions reminding them that we are still here to take them out when they are ready. Their phone calls have started, our passengers are exploring their possibilities even if they are not quite ready to step outside their homes. Individuals are asking what shopping trips might look like – and would they be able to go to a hairdresser’s appointment?!
Our passengers now know that our safe and friendly transport is ready to take them out when the right time comes.
The impending epidemic of loneliness highlighted in a recent survey by the British Red Cross that ECT has always been working so hard to alleviate, in particular through our PlusBus services, will be worse than ever. ECT, and the community transport sector as a whole, will continue to have a critical role in fighting this challenge. I am determined that, as we have shown so far, Covid-19 will not stop us in this mission.
As England footballer Marcus Rashford this week helped to highlight the issue of schoolchildren going hungry at home, ECT has been working with two fantastic charities in Ealing that have been providing solutions during the lockdown.
When two charities got together in mid-April to set up a project to provide food parcels for hungry families in Southall, they thought they might be helping 20 to 30 families each time.
In fact, they got nearly 60 referrals on day one – and by the second delivery run three days later, the number had risen to 150.
At this point, say Elly Heaton-Virgo and Janpal Basran – CEO of the Young Ealing Foundation and Manager of Southall Community Alliance respectively – “we realised that we needed some additional support”.
Both Elly and Janpal knew of Ealing Community Transport and had met CEO Anna Whitty during previous charity networking events. “I had read that ECT were working with the council on food deliveries, so I got in touch with Anna and said, ‘Can you help?’,” recalls Elly.
“The rest, as they say, is history – ECT have been absolutely fantastic, we could not have done it without them,” Elly continues. “The support they gave from the beginning has been phenomenal – we went from five minibuses to seven and we are now sending out up to 190 parcels twice a week. ECT have made the whole process so much more straightforward – without them we would have needed nearly 40 cars and volunteer drivers.”
Janpal comments: “We soon realised there was going to be a problem for lots of families who were already on low or no incomes, and whose children were going to be at home because they could not go to school.
“In those 190 deliveries, we are now getting food out to between 600 and 800 people each time,” he says, “and the help we have got from ECT is immense. Anna said to us: ‘You guys do what you are good at and leave the logistics to us!’. So we did the referrals and preparation, and ECT broke it all down into geographical areas and provided the minibuses and drivers. For each vehicle we provide two volunteers who go along and drop off the food and collect feedback for the next week’s drop.”
Janpal continues: “It’s a big team effort but there’s no way we could have done this if ECT hadn’t helped us. The staff are just so helpful – I take my hat off to all of our colleagues at ECT from top to bottom.
“I have known Anna for a good few years but I never really appreciated the practical benefit that community transport provides. Transport is so simple that you take it for granted – but when you don’t have it and you need it then you realise how important it is.”
Other charities have also played an important part in the initiative. These include the Felix Project and City Harvest, which collect and redistribute surplus food from supermarkets and restaurant chains, and the Tej Kohli Foundation, a global technology and health charity, which once a week provides special cardboard food boxes – nicknamed ‘YouCubes’ – that also include books, arts, crafts or toys for the children.
ECT giving a safety briefing to the project’s volunteers
Many local people, including schoolteachers, have also been volunteering at the distribution centre, which was initially based at the Young Adult Centre in Southall’s Park View Road and has now moved to St John’s Church, Southall Green.
“It’s a fantastic example of how much difference you can make and how effective you can be when people have that generosity of spirit and all work together,” says Elly.
Now, as the charities look towards the school holidays, and at the challenge of ‘holiday hunger’ highlighted by England footballer Marcus Rashford this week, Elly says they are aiming to continue with the food deliveries until the end of August.
She said Rashford’s campaign, in which he succeeded in persuading the government to extend its school food voucher scheme into the holidays, had also helped to take some of the perceived social stigma away from the issue of food poverty in local communities.
“He highlighted an issue we’ve been campaigning on for a long time,” she comments. “It was an issue before Covid-19 and when he spoke about his mum experiencing hardship and that sometimes we all need some extra help, it was about taking that stigma out.”
For ECT, any issue where transport can play a part in solving issues of hardship or vulnerability represents an opportunity for the charity to step up and use its decades of experience to make a difference.
“As a charity we’re focused on using our experience as transport providers to make it possible for people to access the support they need to lead healthy, happy lives,” says CEO Anna Whitty. “That might involve taking isolated or elderly people on their weekly trip to the shops, providing a minibus and driver for a youth group day trip or – in these past few months of lockdown – delivering food parcels to thousands of vulnerable individuals and families across the local communities that our drivers know so well.
“We also believe strongly in the values of partnership and collaboration. At the beginning of the lockdown we reached out to colleagues and friends at local councils and community groups and asked: ‘What can we do to help?’ I’m so pleased that through partnerships with those such as Young Ealing Foundation, Southall Community Alliance and Ealing Council, we have been able to help so many people in such a meaningful way.”
See the video from BBC Breakfast about the project below:
Our Southall food distribution service in partnership with @SouthallCommAll & @ECT_Charity is working with the @KohliFoundation and their @YouCubeBox to reduce stigma and give people a "hand-up" not a "hand-out".— Young Ealing Foundation (@young_ealing) June 23, 2020
Hear more about it @BBCNews @BBCBreakfast #YoungEaling https://t.co/ToAbTFG9DS
It wasn’t the big celebration her family had hoped for – but when Mrs Gladys King turned 100 last week, Ealing Community Transport made sure that her daughter could be with her for the special day.
Your mum’s 100th birthday party isn’t an occasion that anybody would want to miss.
But as we all know from the past three months in ‘lockdown’, making visits even to one’s closest family has become a major challenge, especially for those who are vulnerable and shielding from the coronavirus.
For Mrs Doreen Kilday, an only child, not being able to see her mother on such a special day was a heart-breaking prospect.
But even when restrictions were eased in early June, getting to her mother’s birthday celebration seemed an impossible task, since she and husband Joseph have no car and – both over 70 themselves – were fearful of using public transport.
Then one of Mrs Kilday’s friends suggested Ealing Community Transport (ECT), the local charity she had been using to get to her hospital appointments, so Mrs Kilday got on the phone to the ECT office in Greenford to see if they could help.
Within hours ECT had booked in the short trip from Mrs Kilday’s home in Hanwell to Elm Lodge care home in Greenford, where her mother, Mrs Gladys King, has lived for the past eight years – and mother and daughter were set for an emotional reunion, albeit a socially distanced one.
“We used to go to see her two or three times a week but we have been self-isolating since the lockdown began,” said Mrs Kilday. “It was the first time we had seen her for two months – she was very happy and I was happy as well.
“She had a card from the Queen, which I was allowed to open! We also handed her cards from relatives and my daughter made a collage with pictures of the great-grandchildren. We sat in the garden and the staff at the care home brought her down to us. It wasn’t what we had planned – but it was wonderful.”
Mrs Kilday said the staff at Elm Lodge were “brilliant” in organising the ‘distanced’ birthday celebrations, and the transport from ECT was “unbelievable”. “Sharon in the office arranged it all, and they came in the little green minibus and picked us up – everything worked perfectly. The driver was so nice and said he would wait in the car park while we were visiting and then drive us back home. It made such a big difference to us feeling safe to travel, and we were over the moon to be able to visit. We are so thankful.”
Minibus driver Atif Mughal said Mrs Kilday had not known about all the services that ECT could provide. “She was very grateful for the service and also amazed we would wait for her,” he said.
Sharon Renner, who organises the bookings at ECT’s operation in Greenford Depot, said: “It’s just nice that we can help out with someone so they are able to see their mum in times like this.”
ECT Chief Executive Anna Whitty MBE commented: “Many people in our communities don’t realise how we might be able to help them; those who contact us are often worried about issues such as affordability or the flexibility of the service. But as a charity our aim is to make journeys possible for people whatever their circumstances, and to go the extra mile to ensure that our services make a real difference for the people who use them.”
If you need ECT Charity’s support or know somebody who could benefit from our help, please get in touch. Please click here for contact information.
When care homes across Cheshire stepped up their fight to fend off the coronavirus, the local council knew that personal protective equipment (PPE) would be a challenging and vital issue.
It was important that homes could be regularly topped up with the supplies they needed – when they needed them – both to keep staff and residents safe, and to avoid the danger of stockpiling.
Alongside a process for ordering the equipment and a central storage point, Cheshire West and Chester Council needed an efficient way to deliver it – and this is where ECT in Cheshire stepped in.
Minibuses that would normally be ferrying elderly and vulnerable people to the shops or taking them out on day trips have now become delivery vehicles for vital equipment and supplies in the fight against the coronavirus.
More than 50 deliveries of PPE have so far been made to care homes across the borough by ECT PlusBus teams.
In addition to the PPE supplies, ECT drivers have been delivering food parcels and audio books to vulnerable people in partnership with Chester and District Federation of the Blind.
Meanwhile, ECT has run a number of shopping trips for people unable to use public transport – while ECT staff have made more than 250 calls to check up on the health and wellbeing of regular passengers who are isolated or ‘shielding’ at home.
Ian Dibbert, General Manager for ECT in Cheshire, said: “We’ve been doing several deliveries each day during the past weeks alongside our other services – we’re really pleased to be able to support the council and do our bit for vulnerable people in the local community.”
Councillor Val Armstrong, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health for Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Our Community Transport providers are used to providing a valuable service for many of our vulnerable residents. Whilst most of their passengers are staying safe indoors, I’d like to pass on thanks for the great work being done as the ‘passengers’ are now vital PPE to care homes across the borough instead.”
One of Ealing’s leading champions for elderly people joined a chorus of congratulations this week as ECT’s delivery teams revealed they had distributed more than 10,000 food packages across the borough.
“A big thank you to Ealing Community Transport and their drivers,” said Reginald Parkinson, Chief Executive of Age UK Ealing. “We are very grateful – not just for the passion they have for helping vulnerable people but for all the hard work that goes with it, particularly over recent weeks.”
During less turbulent times, ECT has a long-standing relationship with Age UK Ealing transporting elderly, isolated people by minibus to the charity’s day centre in Greenford. Here they can socialise, get a hot meal for lunch and take part in a range of activities, from singing and knitting to armchair yoga.
But since the lockdown at the end of March, none of this has been possible and Greenford Community Centre has had to close its doors.
Like so many charities, however, both Age UK and ECT realised early on in the pandemic that key groups in their communities would still be in need – and so they worked together to ensure the most vulnerable people could get vital support.
While Age UK’s own staff have been making regular check-up calls to all those who would normally attend their centres, they have also become one of several local charities and community groups to partner with ECT to support their members with food parcels and hot meals.
Mr Parkinson said ECT had recently been delivering between 25 and 50 food parcels weekly to elderly people who would normally have got their lunch at the day centre. Ready-meals and food are prepared in a local nursery school kitchen, picked up by ECT minibuses and dropped at individuals’ front doors.
ECT is providing the service free of charge, as part of its charitable activities.
Food delivery has become a major new activity for ECT teams during the lockdown – and the number of individual food packages delivered throughout the crisis was today (Thursday) set to go above 10,000.
ECT has built a range of other food delivery partnerships across the borough that have contributed to this number, including a major collaboration with Ealing Council. Earlier this month, council leader Julian Bell and fellow cabinet member Bassam Mahfouz both praised ECT for “saving lives” with their tireless dedication and willingness to help. [See the full story here].
Mr Parkinson of Age UK Ealing added that ECT’s role in the local community was much more than a simple transport service: “ECT doesn’t just provide transport. They have a very good understanding of all the needs of the individual clients, particularly those who are very vulnerable and frail. They are patient, friendly and professional – every single one of them. The way they work with us and with the elderly people is great to watch.”
When the lockdown began at the end of March, many organisations stopped in their tracks. But Dorset Community Transport (DCT) has kept services running for key groups of passengers – despite the challenges of the coronavirus.
Transport may not have seemed a priority as the ‘Stay at Home’ message kept people indoors. But for children of key workers or isolated rural residents, getting safely to school or out to the supermarket for essential supplies has remained as important as ever.
Thanks to the dedication of drivers and support staff, almost a quarter of DCT’s ‘home-to-school’ routes have been up and running, providing transport to mainstream schools and for children with special educational needs. Social distancing has been possible thanks to fewer numbers and seating children in different corners of the bus.
DCT even kept several routes going through the Easter holidays and during recent bank holidays – since schools remained open to support parents at work.
General Manager Tim Christian said: “I’m really pleased we have been able to keep the home-to-school services going since the first week of lockdown. Whilst there are very few pupils attending school, this is an important way in which DCT is able to support families throughout this time and, in doing so, contribute to society’s joint efforts.”
Meanwhile, DCT has also kept its local bus and door-to-door PlusBus services in operation, and passengers have been able to catch their regular bus to do their weekly shopping. Just a few basic changes have been made to account for current circumstances, such as shifting the destination to an out-of-town supermarket because the in-town store is closed, and bringing forward the return time.
“In one way it’s not been a big change for some of our passengers,” reflected Tim Christian. “They already live with the challenges of loneliness and isolation, and the weekly shopping trip has been crucial to them for the last four years – not just the last four weeks.”
Although many elderly passengers have been forced to self-isolate, often as part of the government’s ‘shielding’ programme, the DCT team has also been busy supporting them with an initiative the team has dubbed, ‘Just called to say hello’. This is a schedule of phone calls by DCT office staff to regular and previous passengers, to say ‘hello’, see how they are doing, offer any support and advise them of the various sources of support available locally if necessary.
“We are doing our bit to keep in touch with people,” said Tim Christian. “Many were greatly appreciative of the call with some apologetic they were unable to travel! Thankfully, many reported they were receiving support from elsewhere.”
He added: “Several passengers took the opportunity to express their thanks and appreciation for the service, and positive feedback for their driver and bookings staff, all of which of course was great to hear.”
If you need Dorset Community Transport’s support or know somebody who could benefit from our help, please get in touch. Please click here for contact information.
Council leaders have heaped thanks and praise on the team at Ealing Community Transport – after seeing for themselves the huge operation under way to get essential food to thousands of the borough’s most vulnerable people.
As the country went into lockdown back in March, ECT reached out to local partners to ask a simple question: “How can we help?”
As it emerged that many vulnerable people were without vital supplies due to self-isolation, ECT was able swiftly to step up to the task of delivering food parcels across the borough.
Working early mornings, late nights and through the weekends, by the start of the May bank holiday weekend, our teams have delivered more than 7,000 food parcels.
The huge effort has been delivered in partnership with Ealing Together, a collaboration between local community and voluntary groups, Ealing Council, resident associations and concerned residents that want to help.
In a video message filmed by Ealing Council leader Julian Bell as he visited the food distribution centre next to ECT’s headquarters in Greenford, west London, he praised ECT’s delivery crews and the council staff who were packing up the food parcels.
“Every day there are about 200 food parcels that go out. They have fresh bread, eggs and milk and other vital food supplies,” he said. “I really want to make a heartfelt thank you to them for what they are doing. All of those working with Ealing Community Transport and here at the food hub – there is no doubt that you are saving lives.”
Another councillor, Bassam Mahfouz – Cabinet Member for Finance & Leisure – took the frontline involvement one step further this week, after he asked to join our crews to help deliver food parcels to residents.
Sharing that it was also the fifteenth anniversary of his election as a councillor in Ealing, he told the ECT team as they gathered for their morning briefing: “I am amazingly proud to have Ealing Community Transport here in our borough. When it was time to step up, it was you who stepped up to deliver. These food drops can be a difference between life and death. It is an honour to be here to see and help a little.”
After returning from his delivery round, Councillor Mahfouz commented: “It was incredibly rewarding going out on the minibus, and amazing to see such a smooth operation set up in such a short time. One resident said how incredibly grateful they were for support and for many of them this is proving to be a real lifeline.”
Piotr Chodzko-Zajko, ECT’s General Manager in Ealing, said the delivery teams were taking all appropriate safety precautions and also using the visits as an opportunity to check up on people’s welfare.
He added: “The teams are doing late nights and early mornings, and we’ve been out on deliveries every weekend and over all four days during Easter. But at such a difficult time, it’s wonderful to be involved in partnership with our colleagues at Ealing Council.”
If you need ECT Charity’s support or know somebody who could benefit from our help, please get in touch. Please click here for contact information.
Messages of solidarity have been flowing in to Ealing Community Transport (ECT) this week after our offers of support were taken up by the local authority and voluntary organisations.
Across the London Borough of Ealing, our teams have reorganised operations to deliver hundreds of food parcels across the borough on behalf of Ealing Council, Age UK and Ealing Foodbank.
Meanwhile, the charity continues to provide community transport where it is needed, including school transport for children of key workers.
We anticipate the need for our help is only going to increase in the coming weeks, and ECT is exploring other important ways in which we can support the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Next week, for example, we shall be starting a programme of phone calls with our ‘regulars’ – those people who would normally be minibus passengers but who are now staying at home in isolation. We will be checking if they are OK, if they need anything and providing a bit of company over the telephone.
“This is the same group of people we look after on a day-to-day basis – those who are most likely to be affected by the virus but also those who would suffer the most from being on their own for 12 weeks,” said Chief Executive Anna Whitty. “It is unthinkable to any of us that ECT wouldn’t be there for them, supporting the community, partnering with the council at the greatest hour of need, certainly in my lifetime.”
Earlier this week, Mrs Whitty acknowledged that some of the team would have been adjusting to significant changes in their lives – whether through illness or isolation. Nevertheless, she was “proud and humbled” by what the charity had been able to achieve, and by the many messages received.
“Huge thank you to @ECT_Charity and all their crew,” said Cabinet Member Councillor Mahfouz, via Twitter. “They do a phenomenal job all year around and it’s fantastic to see them step in to support the Ealing community at this critical time #EalingTogether. We’re so blessed to have such a wonderful organisation in the heart of the borough.”
A further Twitter message from Ealing Council said: “ALL HAIL our community heroes from @ECT_Charity who are delivering food parcels to local people #sociallyshielding from #COVID19.”
Also this week, some team members were featured in a short film from Ealing Council about the food parcel deliveries – entitled Ealing Together.
Husband and wife team Stuart and Mera Swift (pictured above) said one man they went out to was “completely on his own”, so was not only pleased to receive the food parcel but also appreciated “a bit of company, even if it was only for a couple of minutes”.
On a personal note, Mera added that they were unable to visit Stuart’s parents who were self-isolating in Shaftesbury – so making food parcel deliveries for ECT was a way they could give support to other elderly people in need.
Driver Jay Solanki (pictured at the top of this page with colleague Harbans Rajbans) said ECT team members were taking all the important precautions: wearing gloves, distancing and wiping down the bus with antibacterial gel before and after each delivery.
He said he wanted to help the charity play its crucial role in delivering essentials and keeping spirits up: “We may be the only people they see during the day or possibly in the whole week,” he said. “I’m doing my bit. That’s what I want to do.”
If you need ECT Charity’s support or know somebody who could benefit from our help, please get in touch. Please click here for contact information.
ECT Charity (ECT) is reaching out to our partners and passengers in local communities to determine how we can help in these unprecedented times.
Encouraged by our staff, who have expressed their desire to offer support, we have been speaking to community groups, passengers, councils and health authorities across the communities where we operate in Ealing, Dorset and Cheshire.
These messages have been gratefully received and we are keen to help in whatever way we can. Community transport is a front-line service and ECT has always proudly served the most vulnerable and isolated members of our communities.
The Prime Minister has suggested that some schools may be open to help with childcare for key workers or to help families who rely on additional social care support day-to-day. This means, for example, that we may be asked to adapt our community transport to play a part in meeting these needs.
Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity, said: “Our message is clear – we are here to help and we are flexible. As a charity delivering essential services to the most vulnerable members of our communities, it is our responsibility to be there for those who need us the most.”
In a personal message to all the charity’s staff, Mrs Whitty paid tribute to their spirit and dedication: “I want to thank you wholeheartedly for your continued commitment and support,” she wrote. “Many of you have asked if there is anything that we as a charity could be doing to help our vulnerable passengers who are at home alone. We have been very touched by your offers of help. Please continue to share your ideas on what we could be doing for our communities.”
As the situation around coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, ECT is closely monitoring the situation and continuously reviewing Government, NHS and ACAS websites and other credible sources to remain up-to-date on developments and guidance.
The charity’s priority is to keep staff and passengers safe, including strict hygiene and cleaning processes to minimise the risks for our vulnerable passengers and the community more widely.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please click here for contact information.
Dorset Community Transport (DCT) provides safe and affordable minibus services for voluntary and community organisations of all shapes and sizes – no matter how challenging the adventure. And at the end of last year, DCT transported two buses full of some brave passengers (and their dogs!) to the start of a tough 12 mile walk in aid of a very special cause…
When Jen Walke-Myles discovered that her seven-month-old baby Betty had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumour, her world turned into a “living nightmare”.
Following the diagnosis, Betty had to undergo gruelling treatment including brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “There aren’t words to describe what we have been through as a family, other than horrific,” says Jen.
Although Betty has now been in remission since July 2018, Jen will never forget the care and support that she received from a number of brain tumour charities along the way. So in 2018, she set up 500 miles for Betty: a sponsored walking project to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.
“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer,” says Jen. “But we know that less than 3% of national funding on cancer research is spent on brain tumours.”
They will walk 500 miles
Betty’s surname is Walke-Myles, so Jen came up with the idea of encouraging family and friends to sign up to collectively “walk 500 miles” (in reference to the famous Proclaimers song), with each mile gaining more money towards their target of £10,000.
The first walk – which took place in October 2018 and saw 35 people walking from Lulworth to Weymouth – was such a success, that they decided to do it again one year later.
“We smashed our target so quickly, that we decided to keep raising money,” says Jen. So in October 2019, the walkers headed out on a challenging 12 mile journey from Abbotsbury to the Isle of Portland. So far, the walks have collectively raised more than £17,000.
For both walks, Jen (pictured with her family on the right) wanted to find an affordable way for people to travel to the starting point together. “People were volunteering their time to come on the walks, so it didn’t seem fair to charge them very much for travel.”
There were no suitable public transport options available, so Jen got in touch with DCT, which she was familiar with thanks to her job as an Executive Producer at Activate Performing Arts. Activate is a charity which makes the arts more accessible for people across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole, and it regularly hires DCT’s minibus services to transport young people – many of whom are disabled – to dance and theatre workshops.
DCT was able to provide her with a cost-effective solution for both walks. “It was very helpful that we didn’t have to pay DCT until after the walk, too. That way, we could collect the money during the trip. When you’re making arrangements with volunteers, this type of flexibility makes everything much easier.”
Jen adds that thanks to a helpful DCT team, organising the bus travel felt hassle-free. “The drivers were so friendly and flexible, they even kindly let us take a few dogs with us on the bus!”
Jen believes that community transport is vital for people living across Dorset, especially in the Isle of Portland where she lives, which is a small island connected to the mainland by a barrier beach. “We’re not on a train line and only one bus company comes down to us. Our island is isolated, so DCT’s buses are an important way for communities to stay connected.”
And will the walk be happening again next year? Jen isn’t sure, but she knows that there are a few more charities she would like to raise money for in the future. “Julia’s House children’s hospice – which provides practical and emotional support for parents whose children are facing life-threatening illnesses – is next on our list to fundraise for. They were so supportive, and without them, looking after Betty would have been much more challenging.”
If you are looking for affordable transport to support your volunteer or community group’s activities, contact Dorset Community Transport on 01258 287980.
Dorset Community Transport (DCT) has this month announced that holders of a national bus pass can travel for free on its PlusBus service – keeping even more rural residents connected with their communities.
PlusBus is a door-to-door minibus service for people who lack access to ordinary public transport, whether they are young or old – or have mobility difficulties. Passengers can pre-book seats on any of over a dozen routes across the county which link rural villages to market towns.
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, is delighted that Dorset Council has agreed to extend its bus pass scheme to include the PlusBus: “Now that national bus pass holders can travel on PlusBus for free, we hope even more local people will use the service – whether that’s to go shopping, to a GP appointment or simply to visit friends and family.”
“Dorset is a very rural county and many of our villages aren’t served by any buses whatsoever – residents often have no access to basic amenities such as post offices and banks. For those who can’t drive and have no public transport options nearby, our PlusBus is a lifeline.”
Passenger Mr Parrett is delighted that he is now able to travel on his regular PlusBus service to Blandford for free. “I have had a national bus pass for many years but haven’t been able to use it in my area until now.”
Another regular passenger, Mrs Turner, says that this development has meant that her friends are now considering travelling on the PlusBus for the first time. “I am absolutely thrilled, and I know there are neighbours of mine who are thinking of travelling on PlusBus now.”
In addition to its PlusBus service, DCT also operates four local hail-and-ride bus routes – 14, 97, 88 and 688. These routes were previously run by Dorset County Council but were withdrawn due to funding cuts – leaving many rural communities completely isolated. Working in partnership with local parishes, DCT stepped in to keep these routes up and running and worked with the Council to ensure that national bus pass holders could travel on them for free.
Tim Christian notes that the introduction of the national bus pass onto PlusBus is especially important in the wake of recently released figures from the Department of Transport which demonstrate that local bus passenger journeys in England decreased by 29 million in the year ending March 2019.
“With the number of people travelling on local buses at a national all-time low, DCT’s community transport services are more crucial than ever. We will continue to work hard to ensure that our rural communities are able to remain connected to local facilities and market towns.”
Could you travel for free on our PlusBus services in Dorset? Call 01258 287980 to find out which options are available for you.
There was a chance that services 14 and 688 would not go ahead during the week of Christmas, because Boxing Day Bank Holiday falls on a Thursday this year – the one day when both services run every week.
But luckily for regular passengers, DCT will not be taking a break, and will instead run both services on Monday 23 December – giving people living in and around Dorset’s rural villages a chance to access market towns just two days before Christmas.
David Marsh, Parish Councillor for Thorncombe – the village where both bus routes begin – says that ensuring the routes are running just before Christmas is important for residents, many of whom have no other means of travelling to their nearest market towns, which they need for shopping, interconnecting, or for getting to urban bus routes and trains.
“It could have been that there was no service in Christmas week up until 2 January, but DCT is a wonderful charity when it comes to arranging this sort of thing,” says David.
David himself travels on service 14 to get to the town of Chard, and says he enjoys the social atmosphere onboard. “There’s a good feeling on the bus. It’s one of the few times in a week when people get to talk to others.”
His wife Mary Marsh, who is a member of a local group to support the continuation of the local bus services, adds that they provide passengers like herself a chance to stay mobile and independent. “I can’t drive anymore due to a hand injury, and so the local buses mean that I can keep going out.”
“When you are alone this time of year, just being out – amongst the crowds, shopping, having a coffee, chatting away – makes all the difference in the world. We would be literally lost without DCT in our area.”
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, is pleased that he and his team have been able to adapt to the needs of local people during the festive period. “Thanks to DCT’s ‘can-do’ attitude, we have been able to keep people living in rural villages connected to shops and important local services just before Christmas.
“Hopefully it will also be a great help to those who have left their shopping until the last minute, too!”
Do you know someone that could use Dorset Community Transport to stay active and independent? Contact the team on 01258 287980.
As winter draws in, we’re keeping warm by reflecting on some of the highlights from this year’s Summer Day Trips provided by ECT in Cheshire.
Our drivers took almost 400 passengers* to seven destinations – from a scenic tour along the picturesque North Wales coast to a trip to Bury’s bustling open-air market.
At ECT in Cheshire, we offer an annual programme of free summer and seasonal day trips to our PlusBus members. Registration with PlusBus is free and we always welcome new members! We offer these trips free-of-charge as part of our charitable aim to tackle social isolation in our local communities.
Getting out and about is not a simple task for many of our passengers, who often struggle to leave the house independently due to mobility difficulties. All of our drivers are highly trained in assisting passengers of all mobilities and our vehicles are fully accessible.
Our Day Trips programme brought a little summer sunshine into our passengers’ lives – a chance both to enjoy the warm weather and spend time socialising with friends old and new. In fact, many of our passengers enjoyed it so much that they joined us on more than one Day Trip this summer!
Here are a few of our favourite summer snapshots – along with some of the reasons why passengers told us they enjoyed the Day Trips this year.
“Thanks to the Day Trips, I can…
…See new places
For Jeanne Snape, the Day Trip to Snowdonia National Park – which started on the picturesque Rhug Estate organic farm and took passengers on a scenic drive along the North Wales coast before arriving at the Park – was a chance for her to see somewhere completely new.
“It was my first time in Snowdonia, and it was beautiful,” she says. “I don’t get out much, so each trip is enjoyable and something to look forward to.”
… Meet new people
“I like to be out and about – but living on my own means I don’t travel far, so these trips really cheer me up,” says Irene Robson. This year she came on our Summer Day Trip to the Manchester Museum to meet new people and visit somewhere she couldn’t get to alone.
“We visit lovely places, and the drivers are very helpful and friendly. It gives all of us something to look forward to.”
… Take a trip down memory lane
Day Trips to the North Wales coast were very popular this year – with a total of 13 full minibuses throughout the summer heading out for a day spent travelling through scenic towns and villages along the coast, followed by a trip around the beautiful Great Orme private coastal road.
“I’m Welsh, so the places we went to brought back memories of the places I knew so well in the past. Wonderful!” says passenger Olwen Dodd.
… Travel independently
Lesley and John Boylin went on a trip to Ness Gardens, where they had the chance to explore some of the 64 acres of gardens and enjoy views of the River Dee.
The pair used to volunteer at the Gardens, so for them it was a special chance to go back – and without having to call upon relatives to help. “I enjoyed getting out of the house independently without having to rely on my family,” says Lesley.
… Feel confident and safe
Brigitte and George Jewkes say this year’s trip to the North Wales coast was a nostalgic one. “We don’t go anywhere anymore, and this was a chance to see a bit of Wales again. We enjoyed visiting places we used to go to 40 or so years ago.”
They also felt safe in the care of ECT in Cheshire’s staff. “We don’t have the confidence to go on the big coaches of other travel firms.”
And what did the drivers think?
It was a matter of “all hands on deck” from the ECT in Cheshire drivers to make the trips happen this year. “Organising these Day Trips is a big job,” says Ian Dibbert, general manager at ECT in Cheshire. “And there wasn’t one person in our team who didn’t get involved.”
The drivers see first-hand how much the passengers value the experience. He says: “Drivers tell me they really enjoy being able to give people happy memories – and that passengers are always very thankful to them afterwards. We even got a round of applause on the bus from passengers on one of the Day Trips to north Wales!”
If you want to find out more about free Day Trips with ECT in Cheshire, contact 0151 357 4420 or read this leaflet for information on our upcoming seasonal Day Trips.
*ECT in Cheshire delivered 387 ‘passenger journeys’ during the Summer Day Trips programme in 2019.
ECT Charity is excited to announce the launch of a new film which showcases how it enables people to live more independent lives and engage with their local community.
The film – which was created as a part of ECT Charity’s prize for becoming 2019’s NatWest SE100 Impact Champion – takes viewers along on a journey with Jean, a regular passenger who uses ECT Charity’s community transport services to attend health appointments and her weekly lunch club.
During the film, Jean says that ECT Charity – who provide safe, accessible and affordable community transport services to thousands of people across the UK who struggle with mainstream public transport – has made her “much more independent”.
The film also showcases ECT Charity’s pioneering Toolkit that was developed to enable community transport organisations measure and demonstrate their social value: Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit.
Anna Whitty MBE, ECT Charity’s CEO, explains, “As local councils are reducing their budgets and community services are increasingly being cut, it is essential that community transport organisations are able to measure the social value they provide in a quantifiable way”.
The Toolkit played a key role in helping the charity win the NatWest SE100 Impact Award, which recognises enterprises that “take considerable measures to demonstrate and communicate the social or environmental impact of their organisation”.
Run by Pioneers Post magazine in partnership with NatWest bank, the SE100 Awards are an annual initiative recognising the top 100 social enterprises in the UK, and among them, seven award winners across a range of categories.
Watch the film above (or click here) to find out how ECT Charity’s Toolkit is helping community transport organisations communicate the social value of their work and to discover how the charity gives passengers the opportunity to get out and about.
Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit enables community transport organisations to more clearly communicate their value to councils, commissioners, communities, passengers and government policymakers. See here for more information on the Toolkit or contact email@example.com.
You can read more about ECT Charity being named NatWest SE100 Impact Champion 2019 here.
“As the old adage goes “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and as a CEO of a highly-regarded charity, I know that part of my role is to make tough decisions.
The Charity Commission’s guidance makes it very clear that when it comes to making decisions, my number one priority is to look after ECT Charity’s best interests. When making decisions to fulfil this duty, constantly worrying about how our beneficiaries and staff will be impacted makes these decisions all the more difficult to make – that’s when the going definitely gets tougher.
I vividly remember launching our Cornwall operation in the summer of 2014 as an outstation of our Dorset operation, managed by Tim Christian. The community was crying out for additional community transport resources and there was so much that we could offer. As a charity, our aim was to deliver home-to-school journeys for students with complex learning needs and disabilities which would support our charitable objectives and create social value for the local community. We were welcomed warmly by parents and the local authority alike, and were proud to be able to showcase our quality, standards and caring service.
The next natural step was to form a three-way partnership between Cornwall Council, First Kernow (the Cornish bus business that forms part of FirstGroup plc), and us (a charity that provides community transport in local communities).
The handshakes between partners at the stakeholder event in the summer of 2016 were full of promise for years to come. Our collective aim was to knit together big bus options with our flexible community transport solutions in order to provide innovative and joined-up transport solutions. This came at a time when Cornwall Council was looking for a more flexible and efficient use of financial and physical resources as part of its “One Transport for Cornwall” project.
Three years later, despite our best efforts, the partnership has not progressed in the way we envisaged and there has been little opportunity to create social value for the local community. And so I recently had to make the difficult recommendation to ECT’s Board of Trustees that ECT withdraw from Cornwall once its contracts with Cornwall Council terminated at the end of the summer term 2019, as well as not tendering for new contracts.
For five years, we have been proud to serve Pencalenick and Doubletrees schools. We are very grateful for the hard work of our fantastic team (pictured above): Kevin, Michelle, Paul, Sue, Glynis, Teresa and Kenny – with a special mention of Kevin who has been with us since the start! They have showed utmost professionalism and dedication at all times. And last but not least, none of our work in Cornwall would have been possible without Tim and his team in Dorset, demonstrating that an ‘outstation’ model can work just as effectively a further hundred miles down the road!
Our success and excellent reputation in Cornwall is testimony to the dedication and commitment of our teams. I am proud of what we accomplished in Cornwall and I know that Tim is very proud too. Our sincere thanks to all our Cornwall staff and very best wishes for the future.”
Anna Whitty MBE
Top image (from left to right): Alex Carter (Managing Director, First South West Ltd), Councillor Bert Biscoe (Portfolio Holder for Transport, Cornwall Council), Anna Whitty MBE (CEO, ECT Charity)
Dorset Community Transport (DCT) is delighted to announce that it has been shortlisted for this year’s Community Transport Awards for its crucial work towards ending rural isolation for local people.
Organised by the Community Transport Association, the awards celebrate excellence in the community transport sector across the UK and highlight those who have gone above and beyond for their local communities.
This year, DCT joins just two other organisations – Fellrunner Village Bus, and Llanwrtyd Wells Community Transport – as a finalist in the ‘Serving Rural Communities’ category, which highlights organisations “doing excellent work to enable people living in rural communities to access services that they may otherwise be denied”. The winner will be announced on 12 November at a Community Transport Awards dinner.
DCT’s submission highlighted its work in keeping local bus services 97 and 88 – which are primarily used by elderly people who have no other means of travelling to market towns – up and running following council funding cuts.
DCT gave the example of 73-year-old passenger Mary Head, who is totally reliant on DCT’s “little green bus”. She says, “Where I live is very isolated, and when I found out that the council was cutting my usual route I was mortified. It actually made me feel really depressed.
“For someone living alone, who is perhaps not able to walk very well and has not got family around, you need to be able to get out and have something to look forward to.”
DCT provided further examples of how they help people in rural communities: from helping those with mobility difficulties travel to vital health appointments, to enabling pupils at rural schools to experience enriching extra-curricular activities and trips that would otherwise not have been possible.
For instance, thanks to DCT, pupils at Cerne Abbas CE VC First School and Spetisbury CE Primary School now attend swimming lessons, choir practices, science activities and more.
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, said: “Many Dorset villages are not served by any buses whatsoever, and often residents have no access to basic amenities.
“At DCT, we have been working hard since 2011 to offer people – particularly those who are vulnerable or socially isolated – a means of getting out and staying connected to their community. I’m very proud that our work has been recognised in the shortlist for a national award, and particularly in the ‘Serving Rural Communities’ category, because that is exactly what we do.”
Ealing Community Transport (ECT) understands the incredible impact that a day out can have for elderly people and those living with dementia – from broadening their expectations of where they are still able to visit, to reducing their feelings of isolation.
Thanks to ECT’s Transport Fund, community groups can apply for funding to offset the cost of travel for these types of trips. Read on to discover how one group used this funding to organise outings for members of a Day Centre for people living with dementia.
Spread across 300 acres and home to more than 50,000 plants, London’s Kew Gardens makes a very peaceful setting for a summer stroll. For Jennifer Forrester-Powell, Director and Day Centre Manager at the Clementina Day Centre, it was the perfect place to visit on a day trip for their members living with dementia. “It’s very serene. I think those types of environments are good, not just for older people but everyone, to de-stress them.”
The group spent the day walking around the gardens’ beautiful trees and colourful flower displays, as well as taking some time to relax at the café. It was a true antidote to the loneliness and isolation felt by some members. “Many of our day centre members live alone,” says Jennifer. “So being among other people out and about is nice for them.”
Organising group excursions can be a big job, but having ECT to help with the transport took off some of the pressure for Jennifer. “ECT had the timings for collecting everyone all organised, which did a lot of the job for me and the team.”
The cost of the day’s transport was covered by ECT, thanks to a grant the Clementina Day Centre recently received from ECT’s Transport Fund. The fund helps support local organisations create social opportunities for isolated individuals through local accessible community transport – successful applicants can receive up to £1,000 to offset the cost of transport provided by ECT.
In addition to taking the group on outings, ECT has been providing transport for members to attend the Day Centre – which welcomes up to 20 members three times a week – for the past four years. Families of the Day Centre’s members tell Jennifer that they feel confident that their loved ones are being cared for as soon as they are picked up from their front door. “The drivers go above and beyond a typical transport service,” she says. “They are compassionate with our members, and they give really helpful feedback about how everyone seemed on the bus in the morning – if someone doesn’t appear well, they let us know.”
The Day Centre does not have sufficient funding for its own transport service, and its members – many of whom are cognitively impaired – say that travelling by taxi or public transport can be frightening. Jean, a Day Centre member, says: “Transport with ECT means I can attend the Centre, which breaks up my week. It gives me something to do that I enjoy.”
Jennifer believes that without ECT, many members would have great difficulty attending the Day Centre. “People would be unable to leave their homes. But together, ECT and the Day Centre are providing vital opportunities for people to form friendships, and the knock-on effect of that is they live longer, they’re healthier, they’re happier.”
Thanks to the grant, Jennifer has been busy planning a packed schedule of group outings for the rest of the year. These include a trip to Hanwell Zoo, a dementia-friendly screening of the classic 1942 film Casablanca, and a Christmas lights tour in December. The Day Centre members will also be returning to Kew Gardens in October for a Dementia Friendly Health Walk and a Tool Shed garden activity led by the staff at Kew.
Anna Whitty MBE, Chief Executive at ECT, says the fund is a key part of ECT’s charitable aim to support local organisations in ending social isolation. “We really value partnerships like the one we have with the Clementina Day Centre,” says Anna. “So we’re thrilled that the fund has given them a boost in the work they are doing to end loneliness – especially to settings as beautiful and calming as Kew Gardens.”
If your community or voluntary group is providing new community-based activities, it might be eligible for up to £1,000 of funding for transport. Find out more here.
Anna Whitty, ECT Charity’s CEO, has been recognised as Cause4’s ‘Charity Leader of the Month’ for August.
Cause4 is a social enterprise that partners with charitable organisations to help them develop, grow and raise funds. Every month, it releases a ‘Pick of the Month’ blog piece, highlighting social enterprise, charity and third sector leaders under four categories – including ‘Charity Leader of the Month’.
Anna joins an impressive list of individuals highlighted for August, including Jess Thompson, Founder of Migrateful, a social enterprise that empowers refugees through cookery classes; Roy Montague-Jones, a Trustee for an organisation supporting education in Mumbai called Muktangan UK Trust; and the Head of Business Development at Manchester’s People’s History Museum, Sarah Miguel.
The blog piece describes Anna’s passion for helping other community transport organisations prove their social value – and how that lead her to develop a pioneering toolkit to measure the value of community transport organisations last year.
It adds that in 2016, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours in recognition of her major contribution to community transport.
Also mentioned is the work of ECT Charity, and how it provides accessible and affordable community transport for people across the UK, many of whom struggle with mainstream transport.
Anna said: “Every day, community transport organisations work hard to enable lonely and isolated people to leave their homes. Often, it is the only chance passengers get to speak to anyone all week.
I’m delighted to have been chosen as Cause4’s Charity Leader of the Month – it’s another opportunity to highlight the essential role of community transport and the social value it creates.”
Read the full blog piece here.
ECT in Cheshire makes independent travel less daunting for elderly people and those who struggle with mainstream transport – ensuring passengers always feel safe and supported when exploring new places.
In our latest Journey Makers feature, we discover how community transport has transformed the way members of an organisation supporting the elderly in Chester feel about getting out and about.
One year ago, the idea of heading out for a day trip somewhere new seemed like a frightening prospect to many members of Here and Now, a social enterprise that works to enhance the lives of elderly and isolated people in Chester.
But since being introduced to ECT in Cheshire’s services in September 2018, attitudes have changed for regulars attending Here and Now’s learning and social groups, which welcome around 70 people every week.
Karen Smith, Here and Now’s Voluntary Director and Team Leader, explains how:
“Many people lack the confidence to travel independently, so for some of our members the buses have enabled them to go out for a meal or to a garden centre for the first time in years.
“One lady told me she hadn’t had a meal out and a glass of wine for ten years because she was too afraid to go out on her own, but she recently enjoyed a trip out to eat with us all.
“From starting out as very apprehensive, now they’re always asking, ‘When’s the next trip planned?’, ‘Where are we going?’. They feel safe and cared for by the drivers, so they’re no longer fearful of travelling alone.”
Karen says that thanks to ECT in Cheshire’s accessible minibuses, they can now include people of all mobility levels when planning days out.
“Before, our group members who use walking aids and wheelchairs were not able to come along on trips, because I couldn’t afford to hire a private coach with a tail lift. But now we can all go out together.”
Karen adds that she is now able to offer a greater range of experiences to group members than ever before.
“We only used to go on about one or two trips a year. Most of our volunteers are ladies over 60 who don’t drive, so we’d use a taxi, but we were very limited on where we could go because of the cost.
“But since we started to use the buses eight months ago, we’ve been on about eight or nine trips already. We’ve been out to garden centres, cream teas and meals out, and we’re hoping to book a trip to the theatre soon.”
Karen reports that some of her members have had such a positive experience with ECT in Cheshire that they are now also using the charity’s PlusBus service, which picks up individuals straight from their door for trips out to the shops, or wherever else they might need to go.
“Some of the ladies are now using the PlusBus service to go out independently too, because going on our trips has built up their confidence to travel alone. So the service has opened up a new world for our members.”
Anna Whitty MBE, CEO of ECT Charity said “This is a fabulous example of how the introduction of safe and affordable transport can change the lives of isolated individuals who have lost confidence to go out alone. Being able to travel to visit friends or go shopping is crucial to maintaining independent living, and it is great that our passengers get to discover a new world on the way!”
Find out more about ECT in Cheshire’s door-to-door PlusBus service here.
Find out more about the different types of transport services we offer in Cheshire here.
This time in our Journey Makers series, one Dorset Community Transport (DCT) passenger proves that with the right transport services available, age is just a number...
Passengers boarding the DCT Service 88 into Wimborne recently would have been surprised to see a bus festooned in party decorations, as they were invited to join in on a very special celebration.
The festivities had been arranged for regular passenger Eddie Drake – who was turning 100 that very day.
Following a jovial bus journey which included a birthday song and sweet treats being handed around, visiting family members then accompanied Eddie to the Wimborne café where he usually goes for breakfast once a week.
The celebrations were all made possible thanks to DCT driver Steve Wardman, who often takes Eddie on his trips into town and, from their frequent chats, had discovered that he was going to be celebrating the beginning of his second century.
Eddie’s son Keith described the celebration as “a lovely gesture”. He commented: “A normal bus service or a taxi just wouldn’t know about his birthday. But Steve, the bus driver, was the one who suggested the celebrations. It’s a caring service, and a personal one. Steve knows my dad, and my dad knows him.”
Keith says his father also values the relationship he has built with the other passengers on the bus. “Just knowing that he’s still going out and seeing other people is great. He has friends on the bus, if you look at the picture (see image above), that’s the lady he sits next to on the bus every week. On his birthday, everyone on the bus knew him and they all sang happy birthday to him.”
Being able to use DCT’s services has meant that being 100 has not stopped his dad from travelling independently, adds Keith. “It’s great to know that he’s got the wherewithal at his age to want to go on the bus and go into town and get his pension and have a cup of tea and a sandwich.”
He adds that Service 88 is a lifeline for several residents of the estate where Eddie lives. And when Dorset County Council funding cuts meant the service was temporarily withdrawn in July 2017, he was concerned that many of them would suffer.
“I wrote to Dorset County Council and said ‘why have you stopped the bus?’.
“It’s a big estate with a lot of elderly people – so there is no way the people who live there could get up to Wimborne without getting in a taxi. A lot of people haven’t got the money to do that, so the bus is vital for them. My dad missed the service when it went, that’s for certain.”
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, says he is thrilled that DCT – with financial support from Wimborne Minster Town Council, Wimborne Business Improvement District and Colehill Parish Council – was able to get the service back up and running just four months after it was cut. The route has subsequently received support from Sturminster Marshall Parish Council.
“We are delighted to be working with local town and parish councils to continue to offer people what might be their only chance in a week to get out. Whether they are going shopping for groceries, visiting their GP – or like Eddie, heading to a café for a change of scenery and some breakfast.
“As Eddie’s story shows, even turning 100 doesn’t have to stop you from being independent and mobile if accessible and affordable community transport options are available.”
Do you know someone that could use Dorset Community Transport to stay active and independent? Contact the team on 01258 287980.
At a time when village shops are disappearing and public services are being cut back, Dorset Community Transport (DCT) has been working with local councillors to help villagers stay connected to basic amenities.
In this Journey Makers story, we focus on a group of councillors whose engagement with DCT has ensured that a crucial local bus service remains up and running.
This Journey Makers story revolves around Service 97, a crucial local bus service connecting residents from East Dorset villages to their nearest towns.
The bus, which serves the villages of Alderholt, Cripplestyle, Cranborne, Edmondsham and Woodlands, was saved by Dorset Community Transport (DCT) after it was nearly lost following council funding cuts in July 2017.
Key to the continuing existence and success of the bus service has been a group of councillors who came together to support the service in partnership with DCT. This Working Group meets four times a year to ensure the bus service remains sustainable and viable, and includes representatives from Alderholt Parish Council, Cranborne and Edmondsham Parish Council, and Knowlton Parish Council, as well as Tim Christian, general manager at DCT.
Working Group member Councillor Jerry Laker, Chair of Knowlton Parish Council, says the bus is the only viable means of transport for many villagers to access basic services like supermarkets, doctors’ surgeries and libraries.
“There’s very little in terms of village services, and you only have to look at the regular queues for the outbound bus, and laden shopping bags on the return bus, to see what a practical solution Service 97 has become,” says Jerry.
He adds that DCT was able to extend the route to stop at Woodlands, a village served by his parish council. “So we can now provide something for people in that area who have a real need for public transport.”
Jerry says the Working Group is an example of what can be achieved when councillors come together with their local community transport provider to address a problem, particularly in the recent wake of the region’s nine district and borough councils being replaced with two unitary councils.
“We have to stand on our own collective feet. Now we no longer have a district council to talk with, we have to say, ‘Okay, we might find difficulty doing this on our own, but if we get our heads together we might find a solution that is beneficial to all of us’,” he says. And they have!
Councillor Gina Logan, of Alderholt Parish Council, is full of admiration for the team at DCT “who provide the vehicles, maintain and insure them, undertake the administration and train the drivers”.
She says: “The drivers, by knowing the regular users, are able to maintain an ongoing awareness as to their wellbeing, for example through asking why a passenger might not have made it onto the bus that day.”
Service 97 passenger Beryl Broughton uses the service regularly. She says: “I’m a pensioner and am no longer able to drive. As well as using the bus to get to the doctor and to go shopping, I use the route to go to Fordingbridge where I can catch a bus to go further afield, which gets me out of the house, keeps me mobile and the brain working. My friends are all elderly and don’t drive, so without a bus I would be completely stuck.”
Mrs Margaret Hill, another passenger, says it’s not just a matter of getting from A to B: “I am now in my 80s and I use the service at least twice a week. We don’t have a taxi service in Alderholt, so the bus remains my only form of transport. Getting on the bus itself is a social occasion: the bus drivers are wonderful and I get to meet other passengers for a chat.”
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT said “community transport is all about finding solutions. This partnership has demonstrated what is achievable when we work together within the community. The efforts of the Working Group have had a big impact on the passengers, preventing loneliness and isolation and making sure that villagers can remain independent”.
Do you have a local issue that could use some help from Dorset Community Transport? Contact the team on 01258 287980.
Dorset Community Transport (DCT) is committed to making journeys possible for a wide range of people of all ages – especially those living in rural and isolated areas.
So when a local school in the remote countryside got in touch to ask if we could help when their existing bus service was cut, we were keen to find a solution, as our latest Journey Makers story illustrates.
It’s morning in a small village in the heart of the West Dorset countryside, and a new day at Powerstock Primary School is about to begin.
Arriving outside just before 9am is a little green bus, packed full of energetic children from Bridport and the surrounding areas, ready to start their day of activities and learning.
As a small but thriving school in a relatively sparsely-populated part of the countryside, it’s no surprise that Powerstock regularly takes a good number of pupils from outside their catchment area.
But being isolated doesn’t make the journey to school easy for these children and their parents – particularly after public funding cuts resulted in the withdrawal of their local bus service nearly two years ago.
As a charity focused on helping people with their transport needs, Dorset Community Transport (DCT) was happy to step in when head teacher Louise Greenham got in touch.
Keen to create a solution together, they calculated that the DCT drivers completing earlier school journeys in the Bridport area could then go on to pick up the Powerstock pupils living in Bridport, and transport them to school for 9am.
Now the dedicated school bus service is approaching its two-year anniversary, and Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, has been reflecting on the value of such partnerships.
“The head teacher, Mrs Greenham, is a true Journey Maker,” says Tim. “Thanks to her initiative in getting in touch, we were able to devise a sustainable solution together in time for the start of term.”
He adds: “It’s always great to be contacted by people with a positive mindset who we can work with to turn a potential problem into a solution.”
For her part, Mrs Greenham says DCT has been a resourceful and reliable partner. “We are very proud to have a dedicated school bus,” she says. “Thanks to DCT’s ‘can-do’ approach, we were able to devise a daily return service for our out-of-catchment children. The drivers are brilliant with the children and the service has been a great success with a full bus on most days!
“The children are safely belted in for each journey and really enjoy travelling together. It has been great working with Tim Christian and his team at DCT – they are so helpful and always keep the welfare and safety of the children as their top priority.”
Our Dorset transport services are as wide and varied as the county itself! Find out more here or call us on 01258 287980 to discuss how we can help you find a solution to your transport needs.
Getting a good education is not only about reading, writing and arithmetic - it is also about giving children opportunities to have the range of experiences that life has to offer.
Our latest Journey Makers story spotlights staff from two rural primary schools who have worked with Dorset Community Transport to arrange a vast array of enriching activities and trips for their pupils - from weekly swimming lessons to dinosaur museums…
We all know that extracurricular activities are a fundamental part of a fantastic education, but for rural schools, accessing these off-site can be very challenging. With the help of Dorset Community Transport (DCT), two small village primary schools in rural Dorset are showcasing what is possible if safe, affordable transport is available.
At Spetisbury CE Primary School, pupils are taken for regular swimming lessons, choir rehearsals at other schools, special science and maths activities, and more. These outings are made possible thanks to the school’s dedicated staff, as well as the partnership they have built with DCT which facilitates all of these journeys.
“DCT’s drivers have taken children in the green minibuses to golfing festivals at Milton Abbey and tag rugby festivals in Bournemouth,” says Shulay Erim, Support Services Manager at Spetisbury Primary. “And last Christmas, DCT very kindly didn’t charge us for the trip to Spetisbury Manor Care Home where the children sang for the elderly residents.
“We wouldn’t be able to do half the things that we do if it weren’t for DCT. We don’t want to ask parents to cover the school’s transport cost.
“Without DCT, we would have to hire very expensive coaches which would end up being half empty, or we would have to rely on staff cars, which would mean staff would have to be away from school. So DCT is a real asset in a community where you have small primary schools like ours.”
Over at Cerne Abbas CE VC First School, another small school in a rural area of Dorset, DCT’s buses have taken pupils to the local dinosaur museum and on bluebell walks, as well as journeys much further afield to destinations including the Sea Life Centre, a science centre in Bristol and even Salisbury Cathedral.
“Because of where we are located, we can’t do anything or go anywhere without transport,” says the school’s administration assistant, Andrea Schafer. “Since it’s such a small school, it’s not possible to have our own bus - so we’re reliant on people like DCT to get the children out for trips.”
For both schools, working with DCT is about far more than just affordable trips.
“Rather than hire a minibus with a driver from a normal transport company, we feel DCT is much more aware of the needs of the community and the children,” says Shulay. “They are also very reliable and have helpful drivers, with excellent communication from the office staff. I can just pick up the phone and ping them an email and I’ll get a response back straight away.”
Andrea says that DCT has become such an integral part of the school that the drivers feel like family. “Because we have had the same drivers over the years, they get to know the kids really well, so we all feel like they are part of our school. It’s a nice experience for the kids not having a stranger picking them up.”
Tim Christian, General Manager at DCT, comments: “Both of our Journey Maker schools show that being small and rural doesn’t mean you can’t make a big impact on behalf of your pupils – particularly when you have a partner like us to help get the children out and about. Shulay and Andrea are great examples of the people working behind the scenes – like our own admin staff – who play a really important role in making a difference to their community.”
If you think DCT could help take your school pupils out on new adventures, contact 01258 287980.
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.
The team at ECT Charity is celebrating this week after being named NatWest SE100 Impact Champion 2019.
The award was announced at a ceremony in London, before an audience of more than 200 social entrepreneurs from across the UK.
The judges praised ECT Charity for its skill and dedication in developing Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit, a pioneering new framework for measuring and demonstrating the charity’s social value. They were also impressed with the way ECT Charity had shared the methodology for use across the community transport sector.
Speaking at the event, Simon Jacobs, Chief Administration Officer at RBS/NatWest, who was hosting the evening, said: “It’s much harder to be a top social enterprise than a top enterprise. Not only do you need the great idea, you need to be able to sell it and communicate it. You need to be really clear about your impact.”
While accepting the award, ECT Charity Chief Executive Anna Whitty told the audience that for too long, community transport has been an “unsung hero” in terms of the crucial lifeline it gives to millions of people across the UK – whether this involves a simple trip to the shops, a check-up at the local GP or a day out with a group of friends.
She also described how loneliness and isolation among elderly people had become a major issue, and one that community transport was able to help solve. She asked: "Do you know that some people stay in their homes without talking to anyone all week?"
Speaking about ECT Charity’s focus on social value, she said: “Using the Social Value Toolkit enables us to clearly communicate the value of our services to a range of stakeholders, from councils and commissioners, to passengers or policymakers.”
She added that sharing the Toolkit across the community transport sector also illustrated one of ECT Charity’s core values: Collaboration and the sharing of success and ideas.
Patrick O’Keeffe, Chair of ECT Charity, applauded the commitment of the team and CEO – who was also a finalist in the awards’ Leadership category.
He said: “The CEO and the staff are the ones who work hard on a daily basis to bring people who are isolated and on their own back into the community. I’m really delighted that their dedication has been recognised with this national award.”
Run by Pioneers Post magazine in partnership with NatWest bank, the NatWest SE100 is an annual programme recognising the top 100 social enterprises in the UK, and among them, seven award winners across a range of categories.
The Impact Award won by ECT Charity recognises enterprises that “take considerable measures to demonstrate and communicate the social or environmental impact of their business, using this to improve their performance and win new business”.
Ben Carpenter, chief executive at Social Value UK and one of the judges of the Impact category, said: “The Impact Award was tough to judge this year. There were many excellent entries. It was particularly good to read about how social enterprises have been involving their service users in the design of their services. The winner ECT Charity should be applauded, not only for producing a very comprehensive impact framework but for sharing this with other similar organisations and allowing them to benefit as well.”
Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit enables community transport organisations to more clearly communicate their value to councils, commissioners, communities, passengers and government policymakers. See here for more information on the Toolkit, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the NatWest SE100 here.
ECT Charity is delighted to announce that it has been shortlisted for two of this year’s NatWest SE100 Social Business Awards.
Run by Pioneers Post magazine in partnership with NatWest bank, the judges have chosen ECT for consideration in both the Impact and Leadership categories.
The Impact Award recognises enterprises that “take considerable measures to demonstrate and communicate the social or environmental impact of their business, using this to improve their performance and win new business”.
In the Leadership category – the shortlist of which names ECT’s Chief Executive Anna Whitty – the focus is on “social enterprise bosses demonstrating excellent leadership, effectiveness and inspiration in taking the team on a mission-driven journey to success”.
The winners, who have been selected from nearly 190 applicants from across the UK, will be revealed later this week, at a ceremony hosted by NatWest in central London.
Patrick O’Keeffe, Chair of ECT Charity, said: “We are really proud of what the ECT Charity team has achieved in this, our 40th Anniversary year. We have a clear social mission – to end social isolation through community transport. In developing our Social Value Toolkit, not only have we been able to demonstrate how ECT has made a difference, but we have enabled other community transport organisations to demonstrate the value of their work too.
“Our Chief Executive, Anna Whitty, has worked tirelessly over many years to build ECT into the successful organisation it is today – always focused on our charitable objectives, social impact and sustainability, and in addition, dedicated to sharing what we have learned with the broader community transport sector and social enterprise movement.”
Announcing the shortlist, Megan Peat, an SE100 judge and CEO of NatWest Social & Community Capital, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many great applications for the SE100 Awards, with the high standard across the board demonstrating the breadth and strength of the social enterprise sector in the UK. It made deciding on the winners very difficult for the judges so we look forward to welcoming all of those on the shortlist to the ceremony on 28th March.”
Eddie Finch, Partner in the Charity & Not-for-Profit team at Buzzacott accountants, who carried out due diligence for the awards, said the quality of the nominations in all categories was “the best I can recall in the nine years of our involvement”.
He added: “There was a fantastic mix of imaginative and inspiring start-ups and mature business organisations that continue to deliver on economic and social inclusion, environmental sustainability and a host of other social value aims.”
You can find the full shortlist for the NatWest SE100 here.
ECT Charity is dedicated to inclusion and accessibility for all members of society, whatever their transport needs – and whatever the weather!
As our latest Journey Makers story from Cornwall demonstrates, we always go the extra mile to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of our passengers, who rely on our dedicated team to deliver the transport they need, even in some very challenging circumstances.
We all know that weather forecasters sometimes get things wrong. But in Cornwall on Thursday 31 January, nobody was expecting such a snowy surprise.
As community transport driver Kevin Tait, and passenger assistant Michelle Searle, set off from a special educational needs (SEN) school in St Austell to return their young passengers to their remote home addresses, their progress was halted by a blockage ahead.
Despite forecasters predicting only some heavy rain in Cornwall that afternoon, a sudden flurry of snow had trapped a lorry on a country road ahead – and as the snow continued falling, a queue of traffic began to form behind our minibus. Two pupils with specific needs were still on board, and the team needed to get them home as swiftly as possible.
Meanwhile, another service was experiencing difficulties on the hilly terrain of St Austell, as it delivered pupils back home from a SEN school in Truro.
With one young passenger still on board, driver Paul Lesworth and passenger assistant Sue Tidy were forced to halt their minibus to avoid a slippery slope on the estate they had been serving.
Training, commitment and community spirit
With so much to deal with over a wide geographical area, the training, professionalism and commitment of all those involved kicked in to resolve the situation.
Community spirit was also running high – including one mother who offered shelter for the night, and the kind staff of a remote tyre workshop who delivered hot drinks and allowed use of their toilet facilities when Kevin and Michelle stopped outside.
After keeping their young passengers entertained with the radio and renditions of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, Michelle and Kevin liaised with the pupils’ families and got them safely home. Kevin then managed to deliver Michelle home, and arrived back himself nearly six hours since setting off earlier that afternoon.
Back on the other service, Paul and Sue also delivered their last passenger safely to his mother. Facing a long – and mostly uphill – journey back themselves, Sue was picked up by her husband, and Paul eventually managed to move away in his minibus and make the painstakingly slow and steady journey out of town to get home.
Everyone awoke the next morning to national headlines of Cornwall’s snowfall, with tales of hundreds of stranded road users spending the night on the floors of a college and roadside inn.
A tremendous effort
“I’m so proud of everybody who came together to help us get through this challenging situation and I want to pay tribute to the determination, perseverance and caring approach shown by all our staff,” says Tim Christian, General Manager.
“A tremendous effort from Kevin, Michelle, Paul and Sue – and those who offered support from the local community – saw everyone reach home safely.”
Tim adds: “All the parents affected were completely understanding, and the Cornwall team have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about how well the situation was handled.
“Well done to all – everybody went above and beyond the call of duty – but let’s hope the weather forecasters get it right next time!”
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
We do this by enabling those who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes: whether for a shopping trip or doctor’s appointment, or an excursion to the seaside.
There are lots of people who work hard to make these journeys possible. Our Journey Makers series shines a light on them – from our well-trained, caring drivers to the community members who organise transport for local groups.
It can be devastating to see someone you love struggling to find the right words, and yet this is what happens to thousands of families affected by dementia every day. However, a creative team of performers has found a way to unlock the memories of people with dementia and give them a voice through music – and ECT in Cheshire recently played a key part in helping families participate.
The Turtle Song Project is run jointly by Turtle Key Arts, the Royal College of Music and the English Touring Opera. It gives people living with dementia the chance to compose and perform with professional musicians.
ECT in Cheshire was delighted to provide transport for the touring initiative’s first stop in Cheshire last autumn, taking a minibus full of participants to the University of Chester campus.
Over the ten-week programme funded by Henry Smith Charity, 16 people with dementia and their carers joined a composer, musical director and music students to write a series of songs under the theme “Postcards from Chester”. At the end of the project, they performed these songs – which covered topics including the horse races, the river and the zoo – to family and friends.
This time in our Journey Makers series, we hear from Charlotte Cunningham, artistic director at Turtle Key Arts, and Deborah Thomas, Chester’s local Turtle Song Project co-ordinator, on how the project changes lives, and how community transport is integral to making it all happen.
Charlotte: “It’s not a very positive time in life when you are diagnosed with dementia, so the Turtle Song Project is finally something for people to look forward to.
“People tell us that the best thing about it is simply feeling that they exist, and people noticing when they talk. Music gives them a voice again during a period of life which can be very isolating.
“Families are very moved when they come to see the final performances. The daughter of a performer once told us: ‘I have not seen her smile like that for a long time: today she was my beautiful, intelligent, kind and caring, fun-loving mum again.’
“Over the years, I have been surprised to see a very positive response from people’s carers, too. As well as giving them a bit of respite, the carers find new ways of interacting, and realise the person is still there.
“Without community transport, many people just wouldn’t be able to get to the University campus in order to participate. Public transport isn’t an option for people who have dementia: it’s scary. So the fact that we can provide minibuses with drivers who can support our participants is great, and makes our project so much stronger.
“ECT in Cheshire’s drivers were helpful in every way, and even suggested new participants for the programme. It’s the drivers who are out and about in the community, so they know the vulnerable people, isolated at home, that we want to involve.
“I feel very strongly about community transport – I was a driver in the early days myself at Westway Community Transport in London! Most traditional transport companies would just shrug and say, ‘that’s not my business’, but community transport organisations really care. Once, a participant even composed a lyric about a “patient bus driver” – a reminder of how important community transport is for people who struggle getting about.”
Deborah: “Part of the ethos of the project is to make the people feel as welcome and at home as we can, because working in groups with people you don’t know can be daunting when you are living with dementia. My job involved welcoming them and offering them the nicest chocolate biscuits. I also checked in with people in-between sessions to make sure everything was okay.
“It was these little things that made people’s experiences seamless, and an accommodating transport service was a really important part of that. ECT in Cheshire was so helpful: if I needed someone picking up, I’d just ring.
“Seeing the performance at the end when everyone’s families came was very emotional. The children of those involved were so proud to see their parents doing something productive and creative. So, thank you to ECT in Cheshire for getting people there!”
For more information on the services we provide in Cheshire, please click here.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
We do this by enabling those who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes: whether for a shopping trip or doctor’s appointment, or an excursion to the seaside.
There are lots of people who work hard to make these journeys possible. Our Journey Makers series shines a light on them – from our well-trained, caring drivers to the community members who organise transport for local groups.
Every year, Ealing’s Salvation Army aims to tackle loneliness by hosting a Christmas lunch for vulnerable or isolated members of the local community.
On 25th December 2018, Ealing’s Salvation Army welcomed 65 guests and volunteers to enjoy a morning of games and mince pies, followed by a full Christmas lunch and ending with a viewing of the Queen’s speech.
Ealing Community Transport (ECT) has been providing transport for these lunches for many years. This time, an ECT minibus driven by volunteer Linda Bridges, enabled 14 guests who struggle with mobility to attend on Christmas Day.
Today’s Journey Makers story comes from Sarah Oliver, an Ealing Salvation Army officer. She explains how Christmas Day can be extremely lonely for many people, and why the partnership with ECT is so important to the Salvation Army and its volunteers:
“In my role as a Salvation Army officer, I meet people at our groups, such as our Lunch Club for over-55s, who are isolated all year round. However, I think their loneliness is particularly heightened at Christmas: people are more aware that they are on their own and unable to celebrate Christmas the way that they used to when they were younger. It is a time when we are all told to spend time with family and the people that we love, so it emphasises the isolation that people are in.
“The Christmas lunch was run for many years by a lady called Cynthia Alleeson, who also worked as a driver for ECT. Sadly, she passed away just before Christmas last year, so my husband and I have now taken on the role of organising of the lunch.
“It’s a big operation. On Christmas Eve, volunteers come to do all of the preparation, including peeling the vegetables and preparing the turkeys. Then on Christmas Day, we arrive at 8.30am to get the oven on and start preparing for the guests who arrive at 10.30am.
“When I eventually get a chance to sit down and talk to the guests, I can see that all of the hard work has been worth it, because many of them tell me that otherwise they would be on their own with just a sandwich.
“An ECT minibus brought around 14 guests this year. We completely rely on the service, because without it the guests who need assistance getting in and out of vehicles would not have been able to attend at all. We can provide transport for some of the guests, but others require specialist accessible vehicles, which is something we don’t have.
“We get a number of messages and cards afterwards from people who are just so grateful for the Christmas lunch. And this year one guest told me: ‘I have had more conversation today than I have had all week,’ while another said that they ‘couldn’t think of a nicer place to spend Christmas Day’.
“Our volunteers are often very grateful for the experience as well, as, without it, many would be on their own at Christmas too. They come back year after year, and just want to give back.”
Linda Bridges, the ECT driver who provided this year’s door-to-door transport for the lunch said “I really enjoy the day, especially seeing how happy it makes my passengers. Everyone is so grateful, without the transport they would have been at home alone. And I get to see my grandchildren before and after.”
Do you know someone who needs help getting around? Find out more about Ealing Community Transport here.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
We do this by enabling those who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes: whether for a shopping trip or doctor’s appointment, or an excursion to the seaside.
There are lots of people who work hard to make these journeys possible. Our Journey Makers series shines a light on them – from our well-trained, caring drivers to the community members who organise transport for local groups.
This time, our Journey Maker is Ealing Community Transport (ECT) driver Stuart.
He describes how the skills he acquired on a first aid course, taken as part of his ECT driver training, proved invaluable when he encountered an emergency on the way home from work.
“After a day of driving for ECT had ended, I headed to the supermarket to buy some groceries.
“Walking into the shop, I noticed several people standing over a young lady. She was lying on the ground, and appeared to be having a seizure.
“Immediately, I thought about the emergency response skills I had gained during the first aid course I took as part of my role as an ECT driver.
“Remembering what I had learnt, I placed her in the recovery position. I also spoke to the 999 operators to explain what appeared to be wrong.
“While we waited for an ambulance to arrive, I placed my ECT hi-vis garments under her head, and covered her with my ECT fleece. At this point, there was luckily some additional help from an NHS passenger transport driver, who assisted me with keeping her warm.
“A rapid response vehicle and then an ambulance came within a few minutes, and she was taken inside to be treated in private. The paramedics told me that she was breathing well and her oxygen levels were good.
“Thanks to the skills I learnt on the ECT first aid training course, I felt confident enough to take control of the situation. I am just glad that I was able to assist her before the professionals arrived, and was able to help ensure a positive outcome for her.”
Interested in becoming a member of our team of caring drivers? Find out more here.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
There are lots of people who work hard to make these journeys possible. Our Journey Makers series shines a light on them – from our well-trained, caring drivers to the community members who organise transport for local groups.
Guests were welcomed into a tinsel-covered fire station and offered mince pies and cake by Acton and Chiswick firefighters, a group of Brent cadets and local volunteers.
After a raffle, everyone was invited to sing carols accompanied by a group of string musicians from Street Orchestra Live, an orchestra which plays across a wide range of community spaces, from nursing homes to prisons. To bring the afternoon’s activities to a close, a firefighter dressed up as Santa Claus slid down the station’s firefighters’ pole, and handed out gifts to guests.
This was the fifth tea party organised by Acton’s Red Watch Manager Kim Jerray-Silver, who is this week’s Journey Maker. She started organising regular gatherings to address the high levels of isolation she had witnessed among the elderly people she met on fire safety home visits in the area.
Guests at the parties, many of whom have lived alone since the death of a partner, are invited to socialise, as well as to learn some potentially life-saving fire safety tips.
ECT has partnered with the Acton Fire Station since the tea parties began in 2017, providing transport for the invitees who are unable to use mainstream public transport. As a part of ECT’s Transport Fund, this journey is offered to passengers for free.
Our Journey Maker Kim explains how the partnership with ECT first began:
“After deciding that I would like to hold the tea parties, the next stage was thinking: how am I going to get people here? Most of the people we wanted to invite really struggle with public transport.
“I spoke to Rupa Huq, the MP for Ealing and Acton, about the idea and she mentioned ECT. From there, I got in touch with ECT who said they would love to get involved.
“Five tea parties later, and the partnership has flourished! ECT provides us with two minibuses and two drivers for every tea party for free, and I really don’t know how we would get people there without them.
“I wanted the tea parties to join up different organisations that are all trying to do the same thing: tackle isolation amongst elderly and vulnerable people. Other groups have been involved too, from Neighbourly Care, which invites the guests, to Acton’s Morrisons and a company called DSI Foods which offers sandwiches, tea and coffee.
“As well as creating opportunities to socialise, we also use these events as a chance to educate our guests about fire safety. Statistics show that adults over 65 are twice as likely to die from a fire in a home than any other age group, so at the parties we give some safety advice as well as refer people for home visits from firefighters.
“I have witnessed new friendships being formed. At our Christmas tea party last year, one lady who arrived was so scared that she wouldn’t come past the front door. She was very shy and didn’t open up, however, at our summer party in August she was chatting to all the others and had come out of her shell. You wouldn’t have even recognised her as the same person.
“There’s so much strength in combining forces rather than working separately. We’re hoping to keep arranging at least one tea party per quarter, and we would really struggle without the community transport help. With limited funds, working together makes everything possible.
“Other fire stations have seen what we’re doing and have been inspired to do something similar for the isolated and vulnerable members of their communities – it feels good to be influencing change across the country!”
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
We do this
We do thisby enabling those who are unable to access mainstream transport to venture out of their homes: whether for a shopping trip or doctor’s appointment, or an excursion to the seaside.
Like the elves in Santa’s workshop, Dorset Community Transport’s drivers have been hard at work this December. From lunches held at social clubs and golf clubs, to pantomimes in Yeovil and Weymouth, our drivers have been transporting passengers to over 14 different festive destinations across the region.
The outings enabled passengers – many of whom struggle with mobility and have little or no access to public transport – to leave their homes and experience some Christmas magic this December.
This week’s Journey Makers are our DCT drivers. We spoke to some of them after their trips to hear what it is like to be a driver during the festive period.
Louis became a DCT driver earlier this year. He had retired from the fire service and was in search of a way to continue being useful to his community. The best part of his job, he says, is helping to keep those who live in rural and isolated areas of Dorset connected, many of whom he says are very lonely.
This December, he took passengers to Winchester’s Christmas Market, as well as trips to two different garden centres hosting festive displays.
Louis told us: “The groups have great fun on the trips, and they always come back jolly. At this time of year the garden centres are very Christmassy: there are lights, decorations and even singing reindeer. Many of the passengers are lonely, so sometimes the best part of the day for them is just having a cup of tea with friends.
“Where we live is very rural. There are two buses through town but nothing through the villages. Nothing at all. There’s lots of social isolation and loneliness, because even if people can drive, they are nervous about doing so.
“I love living in a rural place, but there is a serious downside to it when you get older. Young families often move to urban areas where there are more job opportunities than in rural places like this. This means that their older relatives can’t get out and about without the support of organisations like DCT.
After taking a year’s break from work and travelling to New Zealand, Alan felt he had more to give, but did not want to go back to his career in retail. He decided to become a driver for DCT, a job which he has now had for four years, and says is made especially enjoyable thanks to being part of a “great team”.
This winter, Alan took passengers to several festive destinations, such as Galton Garden Centre in Owermoigne, a pantomime in Weymouth and an East Stour pub for Christmas dinner. He even drove a group of school children to a nursing home in Spetisbury where they sang for residents.
“You get to know the passengers very well, and there are some real characters. It’s fun hearing where people have come from. Today, I met a lady whose husband was a British ambassador and she has lived everywhere from Venezuela to Peru. People relate to me as a son, and we love sharing stories. One group has even invited me to join their Christmas dinner this afternoon to thank me for driving them this year!
“Dorset is very rural. We don’t have trains, and now we don’t even have buses. So community transport is an absolute lifeline for most of our passengers. There is a scheme called Bus2Go that links up lonely people with each other and encourages them to get out on bus trips – we have been providing the transport for that too.”
These days, Jeffrey works in the DCT office helping with the organisation of these trips, but he still occasionally drives, and this year took passengers out to the pantomime. He told us:
“It was wonderful taking a group to the panto this year, and to see people out with their friends. Everyone was really excited.
“Although I work in the office now, I still help out with driving when I can because I enjoy meeting people, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction to be able to help. The predominant message we get from passengers is that they are so grateful.”
Rodney applied to work for DCT a few years ago because he always enjoyed driving and liked interacting with both older and younger people. This December, he took a group out to a Christmas lunch hosted at Stewarts Garden Centre in Christchurch.
Rodney said: “The group I took to Christmas lunch this year live in self-contained little flats adjoining each other. They meet up for their meals and have a warden that keeps an eye on things.
“They’re a jovial bunch, and I take them out about once a month or so. This year they enjoyed their trip out to lunch, and all said how good the food was. They also managed to pop across the road for some shopping at the supermarket, which gave them a chance to buy some festive knick-knacks.
“The best feedback I have ever had was from the organiser at a care home who said that because I had been so kind to the residents, they would ask for me to be their driver again! I don’t usually tell people these sorts of things, but that was a good feeling.”
After injuring his back, Simon was forced to end his career in gardening and forestry. Luckily, he could still drive, and he applied for a job at DCT earlier this year because he enjoys meeting people of all ages.
This winter, Simon drove to two separate festive events: he took a group of children with special educational needs from Mountjoy School to a carol service, and he took passengers to a Christmas party organised by a charity supporting disabled people in Dorchester.
He said: “It’s nice to feel like you’re giving back to the community, and I enjoy meeting different groups of people from across the region. The Christmas party I drove to this year was packed, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. The children at the carol service also had a wonderful time.
“If it weren’t for DCT, I don’t know what our passengers would do. Public bus services in Dorset are being cut left, right and centre, so people have no other way of getting out.”
Kevin has been a DCT driver for six years, a role which he decided to take on to keep him active after retiring from his previous career. This year, he drove two different groups to Winchester Christmas Market.
He said: “Yesterday we took two buses to the market, and there were 29 of us in the end. Some people come back with lots of packages and others with nothing, but for most people it’s just a chance to get out.
“I recently found out that one of the ladies in the group hadn’t been out of the house for two and a half years after becoming partially sighted and losing her confidence. However, she started coming out with a social group that regularly uses DCT, and it’s remarkable to see her transformation from someone who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, to joining
in with all of the chat.
“It is very rewarding to see older people enjoying themselves, and everyone is always very thankful when they get off the bus.”
For more information on the services we provide in Dorset, please click here.
This December, ECT in Cheshire passengers were offered day trips to a range of festive destinations across the region.
From Christmas shopping in Bury Market and Bents Garden & Home Store, to a scenic trip to the beautiful North Wales town of Llangollen, the day trips were a chance for people to enjoy themselves and make friends, safe in the care of our highly trained drivers.
ECT in Cheshire provided these day trips for free to registered PlusBus users, as part of its charitable activities and benefit to the community. The outings meant a less lonely winter for passengers this year, many of whom struggle to leave the house independently, particularly in cold weather.
We talked to some of the passengers after their day trips, and devised this recipe for a less lonely winter:
Take one portion of friendship…
The day trips enabled passengers – many of whom live in isolation – to see old friends, as well as make new ones.
Speaking on behalf of her brother Mark, who is a regular PlusBus passenger and who went on the trip to Bents Garden & Home Store, Pauline Linegar said:
“Mark used to use taxis, but I always worried that he was on his own. With the day trips, I know that he is safe with the caring staff, as well as being with his friends on the bus.
“It’s nice to know that he isn’t alone, especially at Christmas time. I know he really enjoyed his trip to the Bents Garden centre.”
… and mix in mobility…
For those who find mainstream public transport challenging, it can be tempting to stay indoors over the festive period. The day trips enabled passengers to get out and socialise without worry.
Mr Hayes said: “Without ECT’s service, I would be able to go hardly anywhere. But this year I went to scenic Llangollen and enjoyed it very much. This bus is godsend for me – so thank you, ECT.”
John Hubbard, who joined one of the Bents Garden centre trips, said: “I have a disability and no car, so I struggle to get out of town. The day trip enabled me to travel further than I usually can this Christmas.”
… add care…
ECT in Cheshire’s caring drivers ensured all passengers felt looked after when they left their homes this winter.
Mrs Hackney, who went on the Bury Market and Bents Garden centre trips, said: “Your day trips are great. I use a wheelchair and am made to feel very safe on the bus, thanks to the helpful drivers.”
John Hubbard added: “What a nice bunch of people the drivers are! Not only are they helpful, but they are very kind indeed.”
… sprinkle on independence…
The day trips were a chance for passengers, many of whom have to rely on family or friends to help them get out of their homes, to regain some independence this winter. Some even managed to do some Christmas shopping!
Mrs King said: “The trip to Bury Market was wonderful. I would struggle to get there without these trips and it was very enjoyable.”
Hillary Hall, who went on both Bury Market and Bents Garden centre trips, said: “I managed to pick up some bargains on our trip to the market!”
… and don’t forget the fun!
Pauline Linegar added: “The driver Michelle was excellent and made everyone welcome. It was such fun spending time with everyone on the bus, as well as having all the buses travelling together in convoy. Both Mark and I are looking forward to ECT’s next round of day trips!”
The day trips were free to Cheshire’s existing and new PlusBus users. If you or someone you know needs help getting about, you can find out more about the PlusBus service here.
You can read the leaflet for our Winter 2018 day trips here. We will provide information on the next series of day trips in due course!
New research published this week demonstrates that Ealing Community Transport’s PlusBus for Health service vastly reduces the need for GP home visits, lowers the rate of missed appointments and improves the care that elderly people receive. It also plays an important role in combating loneliness in the London Borough of Ealing.
PlusBus for Health is a door-to-door service that enables isolated older and disabled people to travel between their homes and GP surgeries. It is funded by Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group and is free for GPs and patients to use. The service began in April 2017 following a successful two-year pilot.
The research also demonstrates that in 2017/18, every £1 spent on PlusBus for Health generated a social value of £1.22.
Dr Mohini Parmar, Chair of Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In Ealing, we are taking steps to tackle social isolation, which is often a problem for our older and disabled residents. We are also taking action to reduce the number of people who miss their GP appointments, and need home visits in the borough.”
She added: “The PlusBus for Health community transport service delivers on both of these ambitions and we have been really pleased to see the service benefit so many of our residents since its launch.”
Targeting the most isolated
As the Prime Minister, Theresa May, pointed out when she launched the government’s loneliness strategy in October: “Loneliness sits alongside childhood obesity and mental wellbeing as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.”
At Ealing Community Transport (ECT), we have been highlighting the strong link between loneliness and ill health for many years. Our community transport services give isolated people the opportunity not only to get where they need to go, but also to chat and socialise with fellow passengers on their journey.
The research into the impact of PlusBus for Health demonstrates that it is really reaching out to the most frail and isolated people in our community – 62% of passengers are over 80 years old, and eligible passengers have limited transport support from family and friends to help them attend appointments.
The research shows that PlusBus for Health improves the wellbeing of its passengers and helps them beat loneliness.
Mollie Evett is just one example of the many elderly people who have had their lives transformed by PlusBus for Health. Mollie is 84 years old, lives alone and has difficulty walking. She uses PlusBus for Health to get to her GP surgery and, after being told about ECT’s PlusBus service too, she now uses that to get to the supermarket.
She told us: “ECT are fantastic; I can’t live without them. The drivers are lovely, we get to know them and have chats with them and a joke. That sort of fun keeps you going.”
Improving the health service
PlusBus for Health is helping its passengers receive better care. The research found that PlusBus for Health reduced by more than two-thirds the amount of appointments that elderly people missed, and nearly halved the home visits that GPs had to make.
This means that patients receive better quality care because having appointments at the surgery enables doctors and nurses to spend more time with their patients. It also gives the medical professionals access to the specialist equipment they need for tests which aren’t available in people’s homes.
Furiha Chaudry, practice manager at Gordon House Surgery in Ealing, explained that her surgery now runs more efficiently as GPs and nursing staff don’t spend so much time travelling to see patients. She said: “Instead of having 10 home visits a day, we now have up to 10 a week. And we’ve had good feedback from patients too.”
Sharing our story
ECT’s CEO, Anna Whitty MBE, emphasised that the purpose of highlighting the strengths of the service was to encourage more surgeries in Ealing to make fuller use of it, and to inspire other communities to explore developing similar services.
She added: “PlusBus for Health is a big success and we are proud of our partnership with Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group. Our new research is testimony to its benefits, the savings it brings to the NHS and the social value that it creates.”
You can read more about PlusBus for Health in our ‘Special Focus’ publication, which you can see here.
Read the PlusBus for Health Impact Evaluation here.
If you run a surgery and would like more information on using PlusBus for Health for your patients, call us on 020 8813 3214.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
This time we hear from Journey Maker Suzi, who discovered that finding suitable transport to take her mother-in-law Ginette from Bournemouth to Devon, was no easy task.
Ginette had recently broken her leg, meaning that, as well as requiring a wheelchair, she would need extra support when getting in and out of a vehicle. Suzi had contacted various local transport services, but none were able to help.
Eventually, she made the journey possible by contacting Dorset Community Transport (DCT).
DCT, which is part of ECT Charity, not only provided a suitable vehicle for Ginette and her wheelchair, but also a driver trained in caring for passengers with a range of mobility difficulties.
Stories like these demonstrate that it is often organisations like Dorset Community Transport which step in when individuals slip the net of statutory provision. Suzi explains:
“I was struggling to find transport for my mother-in-law, who was being discharged from an NHS facility in Bournemouth and moving to a care home in Devon, to be nearer to her family.
“She had broken her leg badly and needed the assistance of at least two people to be transferred anywhere. Taking her in my car was not an option, as I am a part-time wheelchair user and would not have been able to assist in supporting her.
“I contacted various transport providers but was having no luck. My mother-in-law was not entitled to an NHS ambulance because the journey would be inter-county, and while my local transport organisation did have suitable vehicles, they couldn’t provide a driver to assist.
“In the end, I gave Dorset Community Transport a call, who thankfully were able to help us. I was told that we could be provided with a wheelchair-friendly vehicle, as well as a driver who could help her get in and out.
“I am not sure how we would have got my mother-in-law to Devon otherwise. It was a brilliant service, and I am extremely grateful for their help.”
Photo: Ginette with her son Alan.
Do you know someone who needs help getting around? Find out more about Dorset Community Transport here.
From a six-year-old Brownie in wellies to a proud Second World War veteran displaying their medals, Greenford’s parade on Remembrance Sunday brought everyone in the local community together.
But while most people are able to join the annual walk to the war memorial outside Greenford Hall on 11 November, many Royal British Legion members now struggle to join in, as age and infirmity limit their mobility.
This year, however, determined volunteers from Ealing Community Transport (ECT) ensured that age and infirmity were no longer barriers for people who wished to honour fallen comrades, or pay their respects to those who have lost their lives in service of their country.
As the hundreds of veterans, cadets, Guides, Scouts and military personnel marched in time to the beat of various military bands, a bright green minibus could be seen joining the parade, which this year also marked the First World War Centenary.
Provided by ECT – a charity which enables those who struggle with mainstream transport to get out and about – the minibus was arranged thanks to Nick Hilton, a member of the ECT operations team and a committee member of the Royal British Legion Club in Greenford.
In recent years, Nick had been struck by the disappointment expressed by those who could no longer take part in the parade. He said: “Remembrance Sunday is a big deal to British Legion members. For some people, it is just a walk. But for our members, it is so much more.
“During my time at the Royal British Legion Club, I have seen able elders grow less able to do the things that they love to do, including joining the Remembrance parade. So, ECT driver Mandy Golby and I came up with the idea of partnering with ECT to provide a minibus, and I am proud that mobility is no longer a barrier for those who want to show their respects.”
Feedback from the passengers has been overwhelmingly positive. Nick said: “One of the veterans told me it was ‘just like the old days, with everyone back together again’. This is about people being able to get together and be where they really want to be, instead of being isolated alone.
“Everybody that wishes to pay their respects to the fallen forces should be entitled to do so, regardless of disability or mobility issues. To have been able to help people on the First World War Centenary was priceless.”
Know someone who needs help getting about? Find out how they can travel with our PlusBus service here.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
ECT in Cheshire’s PlusBus driver Alan raised the alarm after one of his regular passengers didn’t appear for his usual shopping trip. As Alan’s story illustrates, PlusBus drivers don’t simply transport people from A to B, but they also play a key role in caring for our elderly and disabled passengers.
When regular Wednesday passenger Bert did not appear at the door for his usual shopping trip to Ellesmere Port, PlusBus driver Alan was puzzled. Bert was one of the passengers who would always let the ECT in Cheshire team know if he wasn’t going to be on the bus that day.
Feeling that something might not be quite right, Alan decided to go around to the back of Bert’s house to investigate. Through the kitchen window, he could see a shape on the floor.
Alan realised it was Bert, in obvious distress. He tried to open all of Bert’s doors and windows, but they were locked. He immediately rang the team at the office, who contacted the police and ambulance services. He also shouted through the door to Bert that help was on its way.
Alan’s manager soon arrived to oversee the situation so that Alan could continue on his route, as he still had a passenger on the bus and another to pick up.
A few hours later, Alan received a phone call explaining what had happened to Bert. He had fallen in the kitchen just before going to bed the night before and broken his hip. He had been unable to move for nearly 12 hours.
The paramedics said that without Alan’s instinct that something was wrong, and taking the initiative to check the back door, Bert could have been there a lot longer – with potentially dire consequences.
Alan’s colleagues have said that the way in which he dealt with this incident, is typical of the care and consideration he has always shown his passengers. Bert’s family got in touch to explain how thankful they were for his quick reactions and care shown in this difficult situation.
Anna Whitty, ECT Charity’s CEO, has been recognised as a ‘leading woman’ in the social enterprise sector, for the second year running.
The NatWest WISE100 (Women in Social Enterprise 100) shines a spotlight on women across the UK who are leading the way in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven business.
Now in its second year, the list of high achievers – produced annually by Pioneers Post magazine in partnership with NatWest bank – was revealed at an evening celebration in central London on 29th October 2018.
Having appeared on the inaugural WISE100 list in 2017, Anna was amongst just 18 other women who had been nominated in both 2017 and 2018. Also amongst on this exclusive group were the CEOs of leading social enterprises Belu Water, Acumen CIC and Homes for Good.
In addition to bringing a strong female voice to the male-dominated transport industry, Anna’s nomination this year highlighted her innovation and leadership in the creation of Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit. This ground-breaking report on the social value of community transport, enables community transport organisations to prove their value to their stakeholders for the very first time. Read more about this Toolkit here.
Taking place at Coutts on The Strand, the WISE100 names were revealed at an event focusing on the theme of ‘sharing the stage’. Speakers throughout the evening spoke about the responsibility of women in leadership positions to help other women build their careers, and about the need to create a more diverse social enterprise sector for the future.
Anna Whitty said: “It was an honour to be acknowledged among so many successful women at this year’s WISE100 event. The theme of ‘sharing the stage’ particularly resonates with me and the work I do at ECT Charity, as I have always participated in mentoring young female social entrepreneurs and taken an interest in furthering female leadership in social enterprise.”
Find a link to this year’s full list here.
ECT Charity is on a mission to end loneliness and isolation.
Ealing driver John O’Rourke describes a trip to Hyde Park with a group of residents from Southall’s Martin House care home.
“As an Ealing Community Transport driver, I never know what each day is going to bring. I might be visiting a doctor’s surgery, picking someone up from Morrisons on our PlusBus door-to-door service, off to Kew Gardens on a group transport trip, or simply taking a bus for a wash! What I can be sure of is that most days are different.
“So it was all change again when I was asked to take residents from Martin House care home in Southall to Hyde Park for the afternoon. The group was booked on a tour of the park on electric buggies, courtesy of Liberty Drives, which provides free transport within Hyde Park for people with mobility difficulties. All of the electric buggies were accessible with ramps and clamps, which ensured the passengers could be taken safely around the park.
“Unexpectedly, I was also invited to join the tour. So once everyone was loaded onto the buggies, off we went! The whole trip lasted about an hour. I thought I knew Hyde Park well, but I got to see parts I’d never seen before, including the Italian gardens and the Rolls Royce ice cream van. The buggies felt quite fast at times, but we all hung on tight and enjoyed the ride.
“I didn’t know these buggies existed, but the service and care shown was excellent. A few people on my bus said they hadn’t been outside for a while but had really enjoyed the trip. They clearly had a great afternoon. I know these events take time and expense to organise, but the joy this one hour on an electric buggy gave to these people (including me!) was clear to see. In my opinion, it was priceless.”
ECT Charity’s focus is on helping isolated people get out and about. CEO Anna Whitty explains how.
On the eve of our 40th anniversary, we have been considering how best to express what we do. After reviewing our vision, mission and values, we wanted to create a new phrase for the organisation which we as staff and volunteers all relate to, and one which succinctly captures why we exist and what we want to achieve.
Going forward, you’ll often see “making journeys possible” below our logo. This new strapline is a true reflection of what we as an organisation are all about.
“Making journeys possible” embodies the social value that we create every day. We do this by enabling those people who struggle to access mainstream transport to lead active and independent lives.
We focus on helping those people who fall between the gaps of statutory transport provision, those who are isolated in rural areas, and those who are lonely because they struggle to leave their homes using conventional transport. Community transport is much more than taking passengers from A to B; we take them to new places, help them stay healthy and make new friends.
I’m sure that this new strapline will resonate very well with passengers, whether they live in urban Ealing or rural Dorset. They often tell us that community transport is a “godsend” and a “lifeline” and that it helps them lead lives that they thought might not be otherwise possible due to mobility or other difficulties, or because local transport services have been cut from their area.
Recent conversations with passengers on our Cheshire summer day trips illustrate how we help people enjoy their lives by taking them on days out to the seaside, to garden centres and cities – places some of them thought they might never have the opportunity to see again.
Our upcoming “Journey Makers” series is a collection of stories which will shine a light on the people who are “making journeys possible” for passengers every day. We will hear from drivers, volunteers, carers, staff and organisers, all of whom provide that extra care which sets community transport apart.
We hope you enjoy it!
Anna Whitty, CEO, ECT Charity
ECT Charity is pleased to announce that it has been shortlisted for this year’s UK Social Enterprise Awards. Run by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), the Awards highlight impactful work of social ventures from across the country.
ECT Charity joins five other organisations in the ‘Prove it: Social Impact’ category, which showcases enterprises that can “truly demonstrate their impact with their stakeholders”. Winners from each category will be revealed at an Awards ceremony taking place in November.
Selected from over 30 applicants for the category, ECT Charity’s application for the Awards highlighted not only the value it creates for communities through providing affordable and accessible transport, but its work towards enabling the community transport sector as a whole to measure its social impact and social value.
Anna Whitty, CEO at ECT Charity, said: “We are thrilled to have been chosen amongst 30 other applicants for the category, and to be listed among some of the UK’s most inspiring impactful organisations.
“We hope making the shortlist will be an opportunity for ECT to promote our social mission of ending social isolation through community transport, as well as raising awareness of our recently launched social value Toolkit – which enables community transport organisations to demonstrate the value of their work.”
You can find the full shortlist for 2018 here.
Local shoppers have given ‘bags of support’ to one of Dorset Community Transport (DCT)’s vital transport routes.
Between May and June, customers at Chard Tesco could vote for the Thorncombe weekly bus service, alongside two other community groups, to receive support through the store’s ‘Bags of Help’ scheme.
The three groups – which also included Zem Carnival Club and Somerset visually impaired cricket club – will each receive a grant from the scheme.
Members of the Thorncombe and villages bus users and supporters, who received £2,000 from the scheme, have for the past four years worked together with DCT to ensure vital bus routes into local towns keep going, in spite of multiple council funding cuts.
Locals can currently catch one of DCT’s signature “little green buses” on either the Service 14 from Thorncombe to Chard or Service 688 to Axminster via Hawkchurch on Thursdays. DCT also runs a specialised door-to-door PlusBus service for individuals who struggle to access transport to get to Bridport on market day.
For many Thorncombe residents, these buses are their only route to access basic necessities or visit friends and family. Since 2014 their existence has been threatened by county council cuts to public transport across Dorset, with a particularly large public transport cut of £500,000 in April 2016. This resulted in DCT taking on some of the services, providing a lifeline to many local residents.
Tim Christian, General Manager at DCT, says the support of the community has been key in keeping routes alive, in particular Parish Councillor David Marsh.
Mr Christian said: “David first contacted us in 2014, identifying a pressing need for community transport in Thorncombe and its neighbouring parishes. He was concerned that residents would have been left without any means of local transport, and to this day he has played a crucial role as a point of contact with bus users.
“David and the Thorncombe community were delighted to receive the Tesco grant, which will support the future continuation of the route.”
Tesco encourages its customers to bring their own reusable bags to its stores, however the scheme works by allowing customers to choose a donation towards one of three local projects when they need to buy a Bag for Life.
Tesco Community Manager Nicky Halsey said they were “proud to support the community in this way”, and added: “should anyone have a project that would benefit the local community and they could use a financial grant from us they need to apply online.”
For Service 14 and 688 timetables, as well as information on the door-to-door PlusBus service, please click here.
Thanks to Ealing Community Transport (ECT), three Ealing war veterans attended a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Princess Anne where they joined hundreds of other service personnel to be honoured for their service to their country.
Earlier this month, an ECT driver picked up the three veterans Violet, Paul and Kenneth from St David’s Home in Ealing. They enjoyed a delicious lunch, explored Buckingham Palace gardens and had the opportunity to meet other veterans and celebrities.
Organised by the Not Forgotten Association, the event brought together 2,500 war pensioners and service personnel of all ages with their carers and family members. It is an annual event for the association, which provides holidays, outings and leisure support for service personnel and veterans who are wounded or who have disabilities.
John O’Rourke, ECT’s driver on the day, described his experience:
“I’d driven around Buckingham Palace on many occasions but never into the Palace, so it was with some excitement that I drove my bus with passengers from St David’s Home through the Palace gates.
“At this point, I hadn’t realised that I was also invited. So I buttoned up my ECT signature yellow polo shirt and walked on into one of the grandest events I have ever attended.
“There were five of us in our party: three veterans, including two wheelchair users, a family member and a carer who were made to feel welcome from the moment they left the bus. On our way in we stopped to chat with Beefeaters and posed for pictures with them. After a fabulous buffet, including cucumber sandwiches, we were free to explore the royal gardens to the tune of a royal band – along with a smattering of celebrities, not to mention Princess Anne!
“I felt extremely lucky to have been able to attend, and it was wonderful to see the men and women who are proud to have served their country being honoured with this opportunity: it is one they will never forget.”
Jackie, who accompanied her father Kenneth, told us:
“It was truly a pleasure and privilege to be there amongst service men and women young and old who have served their country over the years – just an amazing day.
“The visit to Buckingham Palace was a way of saying thank you to people who have made this country a better place. There was a mutual respect between the generations, each acknowledged and recognised.
“It was particularly touching to see young veterans who had lost limbs in recent conflicts helping lift my father’s wheelchair over the steps.
“John was absolutely brilliant, he added to the day and was very much part of our group rather than just a driver. We can’t thank him enough, and without ECT’s specialist vehicle we could have never got there. Thank you.”
From July to September, ECT in Cheshire is offering a selection of free day trips for residents who find it difficult to get out and about in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston. Passengers will be picked up right from their door and taken to a range of destinations including the Bridgemere and Bents garden centres, Liverpool’s Docklands and the coast of North Wales.
We welcome all those who are over 80 or struggle with mobility to sign up for any of the free outings through its PlusBus service. All vehicles are fully wheelchair-accessible, with drivers trained to make the journey as seamless as possible. Passengers can bring a carer if they require one.
The trips offer a chance to socialise for many who live in isolation. As part of our charitable activities and community benefit, the journeys are free of charge to the charity’s existing PlusBus service users, as well as new members who would like to sign up to the service.
Irene, a passenger who travelled to Tweedmill Shopping Outlet on a trip with ECT in Cheshire, said: “We had a nice ride there, the shopping was lovely and the café was really nice.” While Angela, who went on a trip to Liverpool, added: “I enjoyed the trip and met some lovely people.”
Ian Dibbert, General Manager at ECT in Cheshire, commented: “We know that our passengers love the opportunity to get to places that they wouldn’t usually be able to visit and that a day out with friends can be a great lift to the spirits.
“Even if one of the passengers doesn’t know anyone at the start of the trip, they’ll have had lots of opportunities to chat to other people throughout the day and may even have forged some new friendships.
“I look forward to welcoming back our regulars as well as greeting some new faces over the coming months. We’ve been to all of the destinations on this year’s programme before and we know that there are some firm favourites. Book now to avoid disappointment!”
For a full list of the destinations, click here.
To book a place on one of the trips, please call 0151 357 4420.
ECT Charity was delighted to see MPs from across the political divide and from all over the UK united in their support for community transport earlier this month.
On Thursday 10 May, a debate took place in Parliament about the future of community transport. Members of Parliament discussed the Department for Transport’s proposed reforms of the legal operating system for community transport which, in our view, is an enormous threat to the future of our services and those of hundreds of other community transport charities across the country.
During the 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall, many MPs expressed their admiration for the work that community transport does. Speakers included the Father of the House and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke, Liberal Democrat party leader Sir Vince Cable and former transport secretary Sir Patrick McLoughlin.
Lilian Greenwood, the chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, who called the debate, said at its conclusion: “There cannot be many issues that unite the Father of the House, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, a Conservative former Secretary of State for Transport, three Select Committee chairs, the Scottish National Party and Labour spokespeople and so many other learned honourable members.”
She added: “We know the immense value of community transport. It meets unmet need, generates social value and provides a lifeline to people who may otherwise be cut off from friends, family, work, education, social activities and essential appointments due to disability or geography.”
Highlighting our views to government
At ECT Charity we have recently been working hard to prepare and submit our response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on the reforms which closed on 4 May. This consultation follows many months of uncertainty for the community transport sector after the Department for Transport issued a letter to operators stating that many of us would have to operate under a different legal regime if we were running some types of public service contracts. (You can read more about the background to the current situation here.)
The proposed reforms stem from a reinterpretation made by the Department for Transport of a European law in effect since 2011. We pointed out in our response to the Department for Transport’s consultation that we believe that this reinterpretation of the law is incorrect.
We emphasised in our response that like many other community transport organisations around the UK, if we were unable to tender for contracts using the current permit system, all charitable community transport activities would stop or be severely diminished due to no sustainable funding and the shortage of drivers.
We added that if community transport services from us and other operators were to cease, costs in health and social care budgets at local and national level would increase dramatically, as thousands of elderly and vulnerable people would lose their lifeline transport.
ECT Charity also contributed to a survey carried out by Mobility Matters, a campaign group representing over 300 community transport supporters, which quantified the likely impact of the Department for Transport’s proposed guidance.
A vital lifeline
We are pleased that during last week’s debate it became clear that many MPs agree with us and recognise the valuable work that we and other community transport organisations do in their constituencies which is currently under threat from the Department for Transport’s proposals. Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, called community transport a “vital lifeline”, Maggie Throup, MP for Erewash, said she had a “passion” for community transport, and Alex Chalk, Cheltenham’s MP described community transport organisations as “fantastic”.
Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, who is familiar with our work in his constituency said: “Ealing Community Transport is the exemplar; the finest example; the industry standard; the diamond mark of community transport.”
He added: “The community transport sector should be nourished, cherished, respected and admired.”
Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, described her recent visit to ECT where she joined passengers on a minibus trip. She said that one of the women on the journey, who had recently suffered a fall, described the service as “a godsend”. (You can read about this here.)
She added: “These services save our local authorities a huge amount of money in avoided health and social care costs, which is the biggest bill for all local authorities at the moment.”
Here at ECT Charity, on behalf of our passengers, we would like to thank Lilian Greenwood for calling the debate. We hope that the Minister for Transport, Jesse Norman, takes on board the concerns of so many people.
Additionally, we are pleased to see that after the debate, Mr Norman wrote to local authorities to emphasise that they should not end or withhold any community transport contracts while the Department for Transport is considering its response to the consultation.
The response is expected before the summer recess of Parliament.
Ealing and Southall MPs travel on ECT minibuses for a morning to discover how community transport ends social isolation in their constituencies.
With the recent introduction of ECT Charity’s new Social Value Toolkit, community transport organisations across the UK are more prepared than ever before to put figures behind the benefit they bring to their communities – from battling isolation and loneliness, to providing access to health and social care services. But what better way to find out their true value than by hopping on an ECT bus?
On Friday 20th April, Ealing MPs Rupa Huq and Virendra Sharma spent the morning travelling on ECT’s signature green buses to meet the people behind the numbers.
During one of the hottest days London has seen this year, they joined journeys to collect two regular ECT passengers – Susie and Mrs Sudesh Sharma – who both use the service to go shopping for essentials.
The first stop of the day was Susie, who was accompanied on her supermarket trip in Acton by Rupa Huq. This journey with ECT is the only opportunity Susie has in her week to shop independently, which she described as a “godsend”.
After meeting Susie, Huq said: “Last month I mentioned the importance of ECT for the borough’s residents in Parliament, because I know it serves as a route out of loneliness for many. It’s amazing seeing up close the work ECT puts in to end isolation in our community on a daily basis, and meeting passengers like Susie show what a lifeline it really is.”
In Southall, MP Virendra Sharma also joined ECT bus journey, accompanying local Mrs Sudesh Sharma on her weekly groceries trip.
It was a nostalgic trip for the MP, who is a former ECT volunteer driver. He reflected on the work of the organisation continuing to end loneliness: “I was privileged enough to work as a volunteer driver in ECT’s early days, and have been thrilled to see the organisation continuing to serve people at risk of isolation like Sudesh.”
He also highlighted the role of community transport in maintaining the wellbeing of drivers as well as passengers, telling ECT that he remembers thoroughly enjoying getting to know the people he was collecting. He said: “Putting something back into the community keeps you mentally and physically active.”
He added: “Without ECT, many Southall residents would struggle to even leave their house once a week, and I hope the organisation will continue the great work it has already been doing for us for decades.”
ECT’s new Social Value Toolkit demonstrates ‘unique value’ of community transport
Community transport organisations across the UK have been offered a huge boost to help them prove their value amidst declining public and social sector budgets – thanks to a pioneering new toolkit created by ECT Charity.
Measuring Up: The CT Social Value Toolkit was launched at the London Strategic Community Transport Forum Annual Conference on 21 March.
ECT hopes the methodology, made possible thanks to a donation from the Monday Charitable Trust, will help community transport organisations across the UK to demonstrate the value of their work – from battling isolation and loneliness, to providing access to health and social care services.
The toolkit is made up of two parts: A Practical Guide to Measuring Community Transport Social Value, and the Community Transport Social Value Calculator. The guide sets out how and why social value should be measured, while the calculator will enable organisations to demonstrate their social value in numbers.
A key aim of the toolkit is that community transport organisations will be able to more clearly communicate their value to councils, commissioners, communities, passengers and government policymakers.
Anna Whitty, CEO at ECT Charity, said: “Looking at existing social value methodologies, we realised there was no tool that could accommodate the uniqueness of community transport and the crucial impact it delivers in helping millions of people every year across the UK – whether in accessing key services, having a day out or simply getting to the shops.
“On a daily basis, we see how community transport serves as a lifeline for many, but while anecdotal evidence is powerful, robust figures are needed.
“As local councils are reducing their budgets and community services are increasingly being cut, it is essential that CT organisations are able to measure the social value they provide in a quantifiable way.
“ECT Charity hopes that these resources will allow many more community transport organisations to demonstrate their social value and, by doing this, enable the sector to continue its vital work in communities across the UK.”
The methodology was independently reviewed by the charities and social enterprise team at Buzzacott accountants.
Edward Finch, Partner at Buzzacott LLP, said: “I believe that the toolkit is an excellent support for CT organisations in demonstrating the social value their activities create.”
Please contact email@example.com for further information.
Have a look at our digital flyer here.
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 Community 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.”
Hundreds of London’s vulnerable and elderly residents enjoyed lunch, laughter and friendship on Christmas Day, thanks to the capital’s dedicated community transport providers.
Every 25 December, London’s public transport system shuts down entirely, leaving the most vulnerable people at risk of spending Christmas alone.
But, as in previous years, staff and volunteers from London’s community transport organisations gave up precious time with their families and friends to ensure that others less fortunate than themselves could get out and about.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of Ealing Community Transport and Chair of the London Strategic Community Transport Forum, said: “While the rest of the country closes down on Christmas Day, community transport keeps moving.
“This is a great example of why community transport is vital to our communities. Not only on Christmas Day, but throughout the year, we work hard to end loneliness and isolation which can have such a terrible impact on so many people.”
A total of 19 community transport providers sent 92 buses out across London, aided by an army of cheerful volunteers and staff. Ealing Community Transport joined the effort, and took people who would otherwise be alone to the borough’s Salvation Army Christmas lunch.
ECT volunteer Linda said: “Our guests were collected by minibus or car and they were all ready and waiting, looking forward to the day ahead. Lunch was a great success and we all watched the Queen’s Speech after tea or coffee and mince pies. At the end of the day, we took many very happy and contented people home.”
Wandsworth Community Transport were champions in this year’s effort, ensuring that more than 400 disabled and older people could get to lunch at Battersea Park Rotary Club.
Manuel Button, Managing Director of Wandsworth Community Transport, said: “The Rotary Club lunch has been running for over 50 years; it’s huge. This year, our whole Wandsworth fleet of buses got involved, along with buses sent from the council and neighbouring community transport operators too.
“The tradition gives the borough’s isolated and elderly people a lot of fun and a decent meal on Christmas Day.”
A crucial local bus service has been saved by Dorset Community Transport (DCT) after it was nearly lost forever following council funding cuts.
When Dorset transport funding was withdrawn in July 2017, many users of Service 97 - which connects residents from a number of East Dorset villages to their nearest towns - feared their route out of isolation would be cut forever.
Luckily DCT was able to step in, continuing its bright green buses on the route without subsidy since the end of July, and saving the crucial local lifeline from being withdrawn.
Since then, a group of councils led by Alderholt Parish Council came together to fund the route, and a new timetable was introduced on 2nd January.
Tim Christian, General Manager of DCT, said:
“In a time of austerity cuts, and ever-dwindling facilities in rural villages, bus routes into town like Service 97 are the only way many people can access basic necessities.
“Since DCT has been running this service for the last six years, we were keen to ensure continuity for residents, despite the lack of subsidy while local communities were formulating a long-term solution. This is a prime example of what can be achieved when neighbouring parishes come together and work in partnership with a local community transport operator to provide a much needed service.”
Cheryl Arnold, a Service 97 driver, said:
“People need a reliable regular service: it’s their lifeline. We have many elderly or less mobile passengers who tell me that the Service 97 is their only route into town to buy their groceries or visit relatives. I don’t know what they would do if it were to end.”
Service 97 timetables are available from the parish offices or on our website here.
Firefighters from Acton Fire Station came together with Ealing Community Transport (ECT) this week to bring some festive cheer - as well as important fire safety tips - to lonely locals.
The Christmas get together was all part of ECT and Acton Fire Station’s tea party initiative, started this year with the help of the ECT Transport Fund to combat loneliness and isolation in local communities.
Alongside a spread of mince pies, seasonal songs from Berrymeade Junior School, and even a firefighter Santa coming down the pole, the firefighters also shared some important advice about staying safe.
Ben Moore, Borough Commander at Acton Fire Station, said: “Our collaboration with ECT is a great way for us to reach out to isolated people, because without the transport many of the people here today would not have been able to get here. Data from the London Fire Brigade shows that people over 60 are 60% more likely to die from a fire, and people living alone are 65% more likely to die from fire, so this is an important opportunity for us to communicate directly about how to stay safe.”
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT, said: “Evidence shows that lonely people are the most at risk from house fires, so we think it is important to collaborate with Acton Fire station in our commitment to end loneliness. Christmas can be an isolating time for many, so it was also a great socialising opportunity for local residents.”
Augustus Belfon, an attendee at the tea party, told us: “I had a great day, everyone was very friendly, and I enjoyed the talking and laughing. It was handy that the bus took us straight from our homes and back after, too.”
Elderly residents at Thornton House Residential Home feared they might not get to their Christmas party yesterday morning, after they were left without access to transport.
Luckily, they were able to call on their fairy godmother in the form of ECT, who sent over a wheelchair accessible minibus at the last minute, ensuring all residents could get to their festive celebration in Heswall Hall, ten miles away.
Ian Dibbert, General Manager of ECT in Cheshire, said: “I started work this morning with a call for help from a local care home in Ellesmere Port (Thornton House Residential Home). The minibus they had booked to transport them to their Christmas party was not suitable for their resident’s mobility needs, so they feared they would need to cancel the trip.
By 1:30pm my operations team and I had all residents registered with us, on the bus and en route to the party. It’s times like these which remind me why I come to work every morning, especially when I see smiling faces of residents who would have otherwise missed their event.”
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT, added: “Christmas is a time when many older people feel the effects of isolation the most, therefore we are very pleased that ECT was able to step in at the last minute. This was a perfect example of the role that community transport can play for people who are isolated or in need, not only at Christmas but throughout the year.”
Elle Holmes, Activities Coordinator at Thornton House Residential Home, said: “I wanted to thank the whole ECT team for all their help throughout the day and jumping in last minute. As you know we had a fantastic turn out and we’ll be sure to be calling them again soon.”
ECT Charity welcomes the publication of the report today from the House of Commons Transport Committee which emphasises that Government must protect the social value of community transport – the lifeline we supply to vulnerable people who would otherwise not be able to get out and about.
The Department for Transport will shortly issue a consultation looking at potential reform of the Permit system, used by community transport organisations which provide community based transport for older, disabled, vulnerable and isolated people in their communities. The vitally important Permit system has been used for decades in good faith and in line with published guidance by the Department for Transport. ECT Charity looks forward to responding to that consultation.
Matters came to a head during the summer when the Department for Transport issued a letter to community transport operators. The letter, issued on 31 July, stated that many community transport operators would need to operate under a different legal regime if they were running some types of public service contracts.
ECT Charity has always been committed to full compliance with the legislation and so we have taken specialist advice to ensure we continue to operate correctly.
ECT Charity was very concerned that the communications from the Department for Transport and other bodies were causing confusion and a great deal of uncertainty for community transport operators and local authorities. We knew from colleagues in the sector that some local authorities were considering withdrawing contracts and some community transport organisations were under threat of closure.
For these reasons, ECT Charity’s Board of Trustees decided that seeking collective advice in a coordinated way from industry experts would be beneficial to community transport operators who were unsure where to turn. As a result, our CEO, Anna Whitty, was heavily involved in the establishment of Mobility Matters, a campaign group which is supported by over 300 community transport operators from across the country.
ECT Charity gives evidence to inquiry
In November, Anna gave evidence to the Transport Committee inquiry into community transport on behalf of Mobility Matters alongside Bill Freeman, CEO of the CTA, and Frank Phillips, Chairman of Erewash Community Transport. Anna told MPs that the communications to the community transport sector from the Department for Transport and its Minister had “shown a misunderstanding of the complexity of community transport and the impact of what we do”. She clarified that community transport operates to equally high standards as commercial operators.
Anna emphasised the social value community transport generates by providing much-needed services to people who have no other transport alternatives. For example, during the last year, ECT Charity created £1.3m of social value for the communities in which it operates.
The response to the Transport Committee inquiry from community transport operators and beneficiaries was overwhelming, with an unprecedented volume of evidence submitted in support of the sector and its lifeline services. At ECT Charity we are delighted the Transport Committee members have listened and we agree with the Committee that the social value of what we do – providing essential community-based local transport services to vulnerable people who would otherwise suffer isolation – is paramount.
The need for care and sensitivity
The Committee Chair, Lilian Greenwood MP, says the Department for Transport should demonstrate care and sensitivity as it moves forward with its consultation and that “it must not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. We wholeheartedly agree with this and we are confident that once the Department for Transport has considered the Transport Committee report and conducted its formal consultation that it will continue to allow all of us in the community transport sector to deliver our vital services to vulnerable people across the country.
The words of one of our drivers sums up our work well. He says:
“As a community transport driver for ECT, I feel privileged to be able to make a big difference to people’s lives by enabling our older or isolated passengers to remain independent, mobile and connected with their community.
“Today, I am taking Pete on his regular weekly shopping trip. Pete has a number of health problems and he acts as a carer for his wife too. He tells me they could not exist without ECT.
Barbara is widowed and no longer able to drive. She says without ECT she would be housebound and that ‘the drivers and the service are my lifeline’.
“Our passengers remain connected to the communities they life in through the simple act of taking a ride on the little green bus.”
In the meantime, ECT Charity continues to provide our vital community transport services and we would like to thank all of our staff, volunteers, passengers and supporters for their confidence in us and in the value of the sector. Without them we could not offer these excellent services and we are truly grateful to them.
ECT Charity will continue to work with Mobility Matters on its successful campaign and we have extended an open invitation to the Department for Transport to visit us and see community transport in action.
A much-missed bus service that disappeared when council funding dried up has been brought back to life by Dorset Community Transport (DCT).
Bus service 88 stopped running after Dorset County Council withdrew its funding for many local bus services, following a review of public transport. But DCT stepped in with a solution, supported by Wimborne Minster Town Council, Wimborne BID and Colehill Parish Council.
The new community bus service for Wimborne Minster, Colehill, Pamphill and Sturminster Marshall was launched this month and will run on Thurdays and Fridays.
Tim Christian, General Manager at DCT, said: “We are delighted to have helped provide this much-valued service, considered vital by so many local residents and greatly missed since its withdrawal.
“Without a subsidy from Dorset County Council, bus operators were unlikely to continue running services that were not commercially viable. But that is where community transport organisations like DCT can step in and help fill the gaps.
DCT – known to many as the “little green bus” – is a not-for-profit organisation established in Dorset in 2011, and operates a fleet of minibuses across the county. It runs three other local bus services, and a number of PlusBus services, through which registered members in villages that lack public transport can book a return journey to town for a flat rate return fare.
Tim Christian added: “Local bus services are a ‘lifeline’ for local residents, who often have no other means of getting into town, or reason to leave their homes. Without the bus services, and with no local facilities, residents would feel cut off from doctors’ surgeries, shops and social contact with friends. Issues arising from isolation and loneliness are “far reaching”, and particularly so for those living in rural villages.”
A spokesperson from Coleshill Parish Council said: “Realising the importance of the service to Colehill residents, the Colehill Parish Council is pleased to be able to subsidise the return of the 88 bus on Thursdays and Fridays.” While Wimborne Minster Town Mayor, Cllr Terry Wheeler commented that “The Town Council and the Wimborne BID were very pleased to subsidise this service for the benefit of local residents and are glad to hear that it is being well used.”
Service 88 timetables are available from the parish offices, Wimborne Tourist Information Centre or on our website here, where you will also find details on all of our PlusBus and Group Transport Services.
ECT Charity CEO Anna Whitty and two ECT alumni celebrated success this week after they were named on a list of the 100 most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and social innovation.
In recognising the invaluable contribution of women in the social enterprise sector, the WISE100 Index – created by NatWest and Pioneers Post magazine – aims to create a new network of leaders to inspire other sectors to diversify their workforce, bringing benefits not just to women but also to business. It is now an established fact that organisations with the most gender diversity outperform those with the least, the WISE100 organisers pointed out.
To produce the list, people from across the social enterprise sector were able to nominate their women of choice via the WISE100 website and a panel of industry leaders then narrowed down those put forward.
Anna Whitty was nominated for her incredible leadership, transforming ECT Charity into a successful charity and social enterprise and a leading community transport provider in the UK. Outside of ECT Charity, Anna has done a huge amount for the sector, leading a ground-breaking report on the social value of community transport, as well as a pioneering partnership at London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to provide the Accessible Shuttles – this was the largest operation of its kind ever attempted, making the event the most accessible Games in history.
In 2016, Anna was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List in recognition of her major contribution to community transport, both locally and nationally.
Commenting on her WISE100 place, Anna said: “I am thrilled to be named among 100 leading women in social enterprise but I am only successful because of the fantastic team that I work with.
“We are proud that at ECT Charity we have many successful women managers. Transport has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated industry but we have worked hard to create an environment where everybody – women and men – can thrive.”
Antonia Orr, who joined ECT Charity through the On Purpose Associate programme, also gained a place on the WISE100 list andwas nominated for her devotion to helping other social sector organisations become more efficient and effective. Antonia is now Chief Executive at Coalition for Efficiency but continues to support ECT Charity. Whilst with ECT Charity, she worked on the development of a pioneering social value methodology for the community transport sector.
Antonia commented: “I feel very honoured to be included in the WISE100 list alongside Anna Whitty, who has been an inspiring leader and mentor for me and many other women. ECT Charity has been an important springboard for my career. Working closely with Anna and her team allowed me to experience first-hand what can be achieved by an exceptionally well-run and caring organisation which combines social business with passion.”
Geetha Rabindrakumar is another former ECT team member to make it onto the WISE100 list. Now Head of Engagement at Big Society Capital, she looks out for the interests of charities and social enterprises in the UK who struggle to access investment.
Commenting on her WISE100 place, Geetha said: “The WISE100 is a fantastic celebration of the achievements of women social entrepreneurs, and it’s an honour to be named in this list. My time at ECT over 10 years ago was my first experience of social enterprise, and it was great to be part of such a dynamic organisation where I felt that my personal contribution was always valued and judged on its own merits.”
In the UK, 40% of social enterprises are led by women, in comparison with just 6% of the companies on the FTSE100. The social enterprise sector outperforms other sectors when it comes to gender equality and as such is uniquely positioned to drive forward a campaign for gender equality that speaks both to social enterprise and corporate bodies.
At the launch event held at NatWest/RBS in London Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise, Business Banking at NatWest/RBS, said: “Tonight we are celebrating amazing women who have set up and run social enterprises. We’re also celebrating women who have helped the sector to grow, women who have given the sector a strong voice and women who are at the cutting edge of social innovation.
“They have very different backgrounds but they have one thing in common: they’re committed to making this nation a better place to live and work through enterprise.”
The full WISE100 list can be found here.
Firefighters at Acton Fire Station have been swapping their hoses for cups of tea thanks to a special fund created by Ealing Community Transport (ECT) to give isolated and lonely residents an opportunity for a get together.
Almost 50 Ealing residents have been able to attend a Tea Party at Acton Fire Station, thanks to the support from the ECT Transport Fund.
The Tea Party was the first community event to make use of the fund, which gives local community groups an opportunity to bid for transport funding that will stimulate new or additional community activities, especially those that benefit lonely and isolated individuals.
Successful applicants receive credit of up to £1,000 to offset the cost of transport provided by ECT, including vehicle hire, fuel costs and a driver if required.
ECT and the Acton Fire Station worked in partnership to invite people to socialise at the fire station over cake, sandwiches and other treats donated by local suppliers, plus a hotly contested raffle.
The first female firefighter in the UK, Sister Mary-Joy Langdon, was also a guest of honour.
The event proved so popular that ECT supplied two buses allowing 24 people with varying mobility difficulties from all around the borough to attend.
Firefighter Kim Jerray-Silver was inspired to organise the Tea Party after meeting a local resident on a home fire prevention visit. She said: “At the end of one particular visit an elderly lady started telling me how lonely she was. I took her name and number and told her she would be hearing from me. I know from personal experience that loneliness can be a major risk for dementia. By stopping the loneliness, you are helping to improve mental health and all round welfare.”
Kim added: “If it wasn’t for ECT, we would only have had half the people there as we did not have the necessary transport to accommodate different mobility difficulties. Having their support has enabled us to reach out to all elderly or isolated individuals in the borough, no matter what their individual needs.
“Knowing that ECT is out there to support us is motivation to want to do more – it enables us to push the boundaries and put more and more activities on.“
Lena Chance, a passenger from Greenford, said: “It was a brilliant day, which was only made possible due to the transport that allowed me to come to the fire station.”
Passenger Josephine West said: “I love the green buses, as they are very comfortable and allow me to live a more independent life.”
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT, said: “As part of our commitment to making a real difference to ending loneliness and isolation in our community, Ealing Community Transport constantly seeks innovative ways to work with local partners to provide local communities with safe, affordable and accessible transport that responds to their needs.
“This was a wonderful community event, and a perfect example of how ECT’s Transport Fund enables isolated people to leave their homes and socialise.”
To find out more about the ECT Transport Fund and how to apply click here.
Nearly 2,000 wheelchair users and 17,000 other spectators with a range of mobility needs were able to attend this summer’s world athletics events in London, thanks to ECT Charity.
ECT Charity’s accessible shuttle services enabled spectators, irrespective of their mobility needs, to attend the World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships between 14th July and 13th August 2017 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Over both championships, a record total of nearly 19,000 passenger trips were made. Passenger numbers increased as awareness of the service grew, and on Saturday 12th August, the busiest day of both championships, an incredible 2,368 trips were made.
ECT Charity was delighted to be chosen as the accessible shuttle provider for the biggest sporting event of 2017, following its successful delivery of accessible shuttle services for various international sporting events, including the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Invictus Games 2014 and the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Shuttles ran from Stratford Station and Blue Badge Parking to the Stadium and back. Many of the passengers spoke of the difference the accessible shuttle service made to their experience of the championships.
ECT Charity shuttle bus users, Chris and Joy Kempson from Billericay, Essex said: “We would like to thank you so much your service and to all your friendly, helpful, kind and considerate staff. Quite simply, without your shuttle buses we would not have been able to attend any of these great events. We are very grateful, you really made all the difference to us.”
ECT Charity was also involved in transporting some of the 70,000 school children who attended the Para Athletics over two days – a record number of children ever at a sports venue – making this a landmark achievement.
Jane Morland, Welfare Assistant at Kennet School, said: “We travelled with a group of secondary school children to the games. Some of them have physical disabilities and use wheelchairs. Your staff were fantastic with the children, and with their disabilities. Nothing was too much trouble and they were very knowledgeable about the accessibility equipment available on your buses.”
Chris Hipwood, Head of Transport, London 2017, said: “It was a pleasure to work with ECT Charity to provide such a fantastic level of service to spectators for the athletics. Accessibility should always be at the heart of any spectator transport operation and having such professional and safe hands delivering a top-class service day-in, day-out was fantastic – enabling those who benefit from a helping hand to enjoy the Summer of World Athletics without having to worry about their journey to or from the stadium.”
Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity said: “Our vision for inclusion and accessibility for all members of society whatever their transport needs, extends to major sporting events. We are proud to fly the flag for community transport, showcasing what good accessible transport looks like and making a difference to thousands of spectators. A big thank you to our partner community transport operators Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westway who worked alongside us during this memorable event!”
ECT Charity’s CEO, Anna Whitty, reflects on the charity’s involvement in the recent World Para Athletics in London. This blog was first published on the Community Transport Association’s blog here.
“Have you ever been part of something special, unusual and BIG? Say, a production or a special event that you have been rehearsing or planning for months. Then, for a few days, you give it your all and you live and breathe it until it ends?!
Taking part in a special event, especially where you play an important and critical role as a team is such an exhilarating and satisfying feeling – and the pride you feel in its overall success is the icing on the cake!
That’s how it felt to be a transport partner to the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 at the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where we delivered Accessible Shuttles to spectators for ‘the last mile’ of their journey. The knowledge that we made travel easier and participation possible for so many people was incredibly rewarding. Time and again we were told that because we had made their transport so easy, they were able to enjoy the event more than they expected and had decided to book extra tickets.
We met many inspiring people including Megan, a 9-year old junior UK wheelchair dance champion now entering the world of wheelchair racing (@AWish4Megan), and 18-year old Abbie with her sights on wheelchair tennis at Wimbledon. We were honoured to meet a gold medalist from the 1984 Paralympic Games whose face lit up when we asked after her medals, as well as 100-year old Joyce who is still able to get out and about with door-to-door accessible transport. We met a group of young people with complex health care needs and disabilities from the Nidderdale Children’s Resource Centre in North Yorkshire who were on a 3-day mini holiday to London. We also met the SENCO team from Southern Road primary school in Newham who were proud that the whole school was able to attend, including their pupils with disabilities.
However, what really stands out in our memories was the opportunity given to 5,000 community groups and 70,000 school children, many of whom have profound disabilities, to attend the Para Athletics event over two days. We are proud to have played an important role in the record breaking: a record number of children ever at a sports venue, and the most children moved to one place in a day by TfL’s London Underground. Discussions are ongoing as to whether it was the most children moved in a day since the Second World War!
You may remember that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games set out to be the ‘public transport Games’ as well as the most accessible to date. That event raised the bar in terms of the provision of accessible transport, and set the benchmark for future international sporting events. It became our mission to keep this legacy alive by ensuring that all people, no matter their disability or mobility needs, could participate in sporting events. Further, we wanted to ensure that the community transport sector, with its gold standard approach to safety, could show the wider world what top-quality accessible transport looks like.
Working with partner community transport operators, including Tower Hamlets, Westway and Wandsworth, ECT Charity is very proud of its involvement with the Para Athletics over 10 days – promoting accessibility and proving to everyone #WhyCTMatters!”
For more photos, be sure to check out the slideshow at the end of the CTA’s blog here.
ECT in Cheshire is delighted to be offering our Day Trip services again over July, August and September 2017.
We are offering Day Trips to Llandudno, Tweed Mill, Tatton Park, Liverpool, Bridgemere Garden Centre, as well as a coastal tour of North Wales.
For further details and the trips and how to book, please read our Cheshire Day Trips leaflet here.
ECT Charity is delighted to have been chosen as the transport partner for the World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships, taking place in London between the 14th July to 23rd August.
Starting today, ECT will be delivering the accessible shuttle service, allowing all spectators irrespective of their mobility needs to attend the two events at the iconic London Stadium Stadium Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The accessible shuttle service will run from platform 13 of the Jubilee Line at Stratford station to the Olympic Park, dropping off close to the Stadium.
Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity, said: “We are committed to a quality model having successfully led the provision of accessible shuttle buses for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Invictus Games 2014, 2015 Rugby World Cup and Parallel London. We are delighted to now be involved in these two major international athletics events, and to see a continued commitment by sporting bodies to making these events so accessible.”
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At ECT Charity, we recognise the importance and value of working in partnership with others to support people in the community. Following the tragic events in Kensington earlier this month, we would like to share a blog post from our friends at Westway CT that demonstrates how civil society can pull together during difficult times to support those who need it most. Westway CT's response has been swift, compassionate and practical. Our partner's approach is a fantastic example of the vital contribution that community transport makes to our society.
On Wednesday the 14th of June during the early hours of the morning, our community, and then the rest of the world, witnessed the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.
The Westway CT team are all alive and accounted for, but sadly we have two members of staff that have lost their home of 35 years. We are thankful that they escaped and are physically well and uninjured, but there is no doubt that what they saw that night, will affect them for a long time. We have another two members of staff who have lost family members and our condolences go out to them. We will be focussing on helping them all to rebuild their lives again.
Community Transport is a necessity for so many local people. Our team turned up for work early that morning, despite the major travel disruptions and road closures. We knew that it was going to be a difficult and distressing day. Doing as we normally do, we continued with our usual ‘Shopper Services’ and ‘Volunteer Cars’ journeys and took over 200 children to school in Minibuses. Several of our drivers who live in the local vicinity, many of them in a state of shock, worked tirelessly from morning into the night to assist emergency services however they could. Westway CT then made our fleet of vehicles available to the emergency planners and community activists. Some drivers moved clothing donated to the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, from Acklam Road to a large storage unit in Park Royal, spending hours in standstill traffic. Others helped bring food and bedding from the Rugby Portobello Club to sanctuaries nearby, for those who had been made homeless. All worked alongside hundreds of people from near and far, who wanted to do anything in their power to help. Our staff and the rest of the community pulled together like troopers and we are extremely proud of their efforts not only providing the regular work to our members but the numerous additional requests that came in.
We have offered our staff counselling, provided emergency funds to staff who have lost their homes and will be looking to offering some financial support to the bereaved. Also, we have pledged to donate £500 towards the cost of transport to an initiative that will support the children affected by this disaster during the summer period.
Rest assured that Westway CT will willingly do its part to help rebuild this community in the days, weeks and months ahead. Andrew Kelly, the Director, said, “ I feel so proud to be associated with such a wonderful and caring group of people, who once again have stepped up to the challenge and done all they can to support their colleagues, neighbours and friends”.
This terrible event has ruined the lives of so many in our community, but this will not stop us helping those in need. This community will always be spirited and its strength was evident in this time of crisis.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have contacted us with messages of support during this particularly difficult week.
You can also read this on Westway CT's website here.
Ealing Community Transport (ECT) has been named as the winner of a national competition celebrating the impact of social enterprises on their communities and wider society.
The Making a Mark competition, run by the international social enterprise accreditation authority Social Enterprise Mark CIC, made the announcement at a special reception this week at the CIC’s annual conference in Winchester.
The judging panel commended ECT on its ability to demonstrate considerable social impact across a wide range of individuals and community groups, both directly and indirectly, by providing accessible and affordable transport for people and groups who cannot access mainstream services.
In the last year, ECT Charity has enabled more than 98,000 passenger trips for individuals and more than 60,000 group trips for over 400 community groups. The organisation has also been able to calculate its social impact using its recently developed methodology, and in the past year, ECT’s charitable activities have had a social value of £1.3 million. In the London Borough of Ealing alone, community transport could save up to £4.1 million annually by reducing isolation and loneliness.
ECT was the clear winner of the competition, whose nominees included several well-known social enterprises including The Big Issue. ECT gained 64% of all public votes, which accounted for 50% of the final result, with the other 50% being decided by the independent Certification Panel.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT, said: “We are thrilled to have been named as the winners of this year’s Making a Mark competition for our continued work to measure our social impact. We are committed to providing high quality, safe, friendly, accessible and affordable transport in local communities, so it’s really important that we can measure how well we are achieving these aims and what difference it makes. We are incredibly proud of these achievements and would like to thank Social Enterprise Mark CIC for their recognition of our work in this award.”
Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC said: “ECT won because of their ability to demonstrate their social impact across a wide range of groups, including helping overcome social isolation. They clearly demonstrate social impact created for individuals using the transport, as well as contributing to the sustainability of local community groups. Well done to Anna and the whole ECT team.”
To find out more, please read Social Enterprise Mark CIC’s press release on ECT’s win here.
A Dorset voluntary group helping people with leg-related problems has stepped up its services over the past few months – thanks to a new minibus provided by Dorset Community Transport (DCT).
The Best Foot Forward Leg Club, based in Upton, is one of several groups that has benefited after DCT received a new minibus from the Department for Transport’s £25 million Community Transport Minibus Fund.
The Club, which is part of the Lindsay Leg Club Foundation, provides community-based treatment, health promotion, education and on-going care for people of all ages who are experiencing leg-related problems. Since November 2015, DCT has provided the Club’s members with a weekly door-to-door transport service. However, the time slots available for travel were somewhat restricted. Thanks to the new minibus, DCT can now offer the Club much greater flexibility for its members.
Other groups that have benefited from DCT’s new minibus include Bus4Us, whose members live in a residential park in Dorset occupied largely by elderly residents. The park is poorly served by public transport – but DCT’s services mean the residents can now go on a monthly shopping or sightseeing trip. Favourite destinations include the Dolphin Shopping Centre in Poole, Christchurch Quay, Dorchester Market, various garden centres, Salisbury, the New Forest, and the annual Christmas trip to Winchester.
Tim Christian, DCT’s General Manager, said: “DCT already provides door-to-door transport for individuals and community groups across Dorset, but with the Department for Transport-funded minibus we have been able to expand our capacity. The new minibus has enabled us to go above and beyond our usual offering to community groups, and we are able to offer them more flexibility for when they would like to travel. This in turn has led to community groups being able to offer their members an improved service, which we are thrilled about.”
If you are a community group or charity and are interested in transport for your organisation, please get in touch on 01258 287980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ealing Community Transport has been named as one of just seven shortlisted social enterprises for this year’s Making a Mark competition.
The competition celebrates social enterprises creating “considerable social impact within their communities and in wider society”. It is run by Social Enterprise Mark CIC, which recognises successful social enterprises through its accreditation, the Social Enterprise Mark.
The finalists have been chosen for the care they have taken in measuring and demonstrating their social impact, including how they have used their income to maximise the positive work that they are doing.
Ealing Community Transport has been selected based on our most recent Social Impact Statement. It shows the benefit we provide through accessible and affordable transport for people and groups who cannot access mainstream services – including many individuals who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to leave their homes.
Last year, we enabled 75,340 passenger trips for 508 different community groups at subsidised rates; we set aside a fund of £20,000 through our EASIE (Elderly Accessible Service in Ealing) project, and we worked with our local Clinical Commissioning Group to provide an accessible door-to-door transport service for vulnerable patients to get to their GP appointments.
We also demonstrated how community transport can save £4m for the borough of Ealing by reducing isolation and loneliness and keeping people independent.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive at ECT Charity, said: “We are thrilled to have been recognised by the Making a Mark competition for our continued work to achieve social impact. We are now reaching out to our friends and partners as the shortlist will go to a public vote.”
You can support us by voting for us via this link – the voting is open until Friday 5 May.
Following a major consultation exercise with our team, ECT Charity has developed a fresh vision and mission, and a new set of values, to guide our work as a charity and social enterprise.
As an organisation committed to inclusion and accessibility for all, we have always been driven by a clear and strong social purpose – ever since we started providing accessible transport services in Ealing 35 years ago.
Since then, both our reach and range of services have widened in scope, but our charitable purpose has remained steadfast. In addition to our work in west London, we now operate services in Dorset, Cheshire and Cornwall. We have also become known as a leader in providing accessible transport services for major events, such as the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games and the 2015 Rugby World Cup. We are committed to increasing our social impact as well as measuring the social value we bring, with a focus on individuals who are lonely and isolated, and the positive impact that community transport can make.
As we have matured as an organisation, our values have developed. So, last year, we decided to explore what really matters to us through a series of interviews with our staff, volunteers and trustees.
Speaking to members of our team about things that mattered to them about ECT Charity was a truly inspiring experience. From the insights we gathered, we forged a new vision, mission and set of values. These reflect what drives us to make a positive difference; they represent what we stand for and how we approach our work – from our drivers to senior management and the board of trustees.
One of our drivers summed up the motivation that energises us all at ECT Charity: “What we do is life-changing for some people. For us, it’s not about the biggest, most noticeable thing we have done. The reason we are doing all this is because it benefits the people we serve. It’s the difference we make to a particular person’s life.”
Our CEO Anna Whitty reflects: “Going the extra mile is second nature to us, we will always bend over backwards to help, and this is true for everyone within the organisation. It was important for us to honour this by developing our organisational values, to show that they are an integral part of who we are. We are all very proud of what we have achieved so far and we will ensure our values will continue to lead the way.”
ECT in Cheshire’s PlusBus service battled heavy traffic to transport a special guest to a family wedding this week. Sarah Williams, who has restricted mobility issues, was collected by ECT in Cheshire’s fully accessible PlusBus from Vivo Care Choices, a respite centre in Ellesmere Port, to attend her brother Lee’s wedding at The Grosvenor Pulford Hotel in Pulford.
Sharron Brooks, Sarah’s mother commented, “I was so pleased the PlusBus service was able to take Sarah to her brothers’ wedding. It was great that she could be part of the celebrations and see her brother get married.”
Sharron Brooks, also said: “We had a wonderful day at my son’s wedding and the PlusBus service helped bring my family together on this special occasion. Without the great service offered by PlusBus, it would have been nearly impossible for Sarah to attend, so I would like to say thank you for their help and support in making it all possible.”
ECT in Cheshire’s PlusBus service provides door-to-door transport for people who find it difficult to use public transport. The service is available to people who have mobility difficulties and/or are aged 80+. A single journey costs £3 and a return just £5 per person.
Ian Dibbert, General Manager of ECT in Cheshire commented: “Sarah’s journey to her brother’s wedding is just one of the many journeys our PlusBus service completes every month for members of the local community. Even though most of our trips are more routine, such as visits to the doctor, shops or to see friends and family, we’re always thrilled when we are able to do something outside of the ordinary like bringing a family together on such a special occasion.”
For further information on ECT in Cheshire’s PlusBus service, and how to book, call 0151 357 4420 or see here.
ECT Charity CEO Anna Whitty has been invited to share her thoughts on the opportunities and challenges for women in the transport sector, as part of a blog for the Community Transport Association to mark International Women’s Day (8th March). You can read her piece in full below:
“Why is International Women’s Day so important? Above any other reason, it is about inspiring women to aim high and believe in themselves. This is particularly important in the transport industry, which is very male-dominated, particularly within the older demographic.
“When I was growing up, I was expected to play with dolls, but Lego was my passion: finding a way to fit the bricks together to build something strong and stable. This mind-set has stayed with me throughout my career; for me, transport is about detailed planning in order to implement a top-quality end product.
“As women, we often have the patience for this detail, and are recognised for our juggling skills - we all know that multitasking is an essential part of delivering transport! Further, we are not afraid to show our passion or that we care about our customers’ needs and passenger experience.
“At ECT Charity, most of our management and supervisory roles are taken by women. These are women who believe in themselves and seized the opportunities presented to them. Ultimately, they were appointed as they were the best people for the job.
“This International Women’s Day – and beyond – let’s all stand tall and proud.”
To read the full blog and to hear from other leading women in the sector, check out CTA’s blog here.
In rural areas such as Dorset, community transport plays a crucial role in ensuring that local people are able to engage in community activities, particularly at a time when traditional transport services are being cut.
Dorset County Council has been forced to make cuts to public bus services in the sum of £1.5m over two years, and in response, it has launched various initiatives to support community transport schemes.
Over the last year, 20 trial community transport schemes have been introduced across Dorset – many of them being run by Dorset Community Transport’s (DCT) PlusBus service. Dorset County Council has also been encouraging communities to set up their own transport schemes by offering grants, toolkits and supporting volunteers.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT Charity (DCT’s umbrella organisation) says: “We welcome Dorset County Council’s continuing support of community transport, particularly at a time when local residents need access to these services more than ever. Recently, Cllr Peter Finney, Cabinet Member for Environment, Infrastructure and Highways highlighted the financial challenges of the Council providing subsidised transport services. Community transport provides a sustainable solution to this problem, and ensures that people in rural areas continue to be able to get out and about and engage with their local community.”
To find out more about how Dorset County Council’s is supporting the community transport sector, please see here.
ECT Charity Chief Executive, Anna Whitty, collected her MBE on 3rd February 2017 at Buckingham Palace, which she received as part of the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List.
Mrs Whitty was presented with her award by HRH The Prince of Wales in recognition of her major contribution to community transport, both locally and nationally.
Speaking about the experience of collecting her MBE, Mrs Whitty commented: “It was such a wonderful day and I was delighted to be able to share it with my family. Everyone at the Palace was so helpful and ensured the day was a truly special occasion for all recipients and their guests. Prince Charles showed great interest when I explained ECT Charity’s work in enabling semi-housebound, lonely and isolated people leave their homes, as well as the accessible transport we provided during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He was incredibly kind making it a personal and emotional day. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of everyone at ECT Charity with whom I have the privilege of working.”
On a national stage, Mrs Whitty has driven a series of high-profile engagements that have put community transport on the map and in the spotlight for both its quality of service and the positive impact it makes.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, former Commissioner, Transport for London, now Chair of Network Rail, said: “I am delighted that Anna Whitty has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. She has worked tirelessly for a large part of her working life to champion the needs of people for whom regular public transport cannot offer the solution for their essential journeys. Under Anna’s leadership, ECT Charity has matured into a hugely successful organisation with high quality operations both in London and elsewhere. She and ECT Charity have set the highest standard for the provision of accessible transport and raised the level of understanding of the benefits of this with Government and other major opinion-formers nationally.”
Image courtesy of British Ceremonial Arts Limited
Lucy Wells reflects on her past few months as an OnPurpose Associate at ECT Charity's head office in Greenford, London. OnPurpose is a social enterprise leadership development programme which combines two six-month consultancy roles set within organisations which use commercial dynamics to create social or environmental benefit. Alongside these consultancy roles, the programme includes a rigorous professional development and training program instructed by business and social enterprise leaders.
This blog was first published on OnPurpose's blog here.
"Watching rubbish dance in the wind and rain while the recycling trucks roll in may not be everyone’s dream view from their desk, but I love working at the depot. The sound of the buses coming and going, the oily jump wires which live under my desk, the ups and downs of breakdowns and flat batteries.
I used to find it laughable that the ex-President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had a PhD in Traffic Management – but I get it now, or at least I’m starting to.
I’ve always taken transport for granted, the fact that I could get from A to B easily, affordably and through a choice of vehicles. In fact, I’ve taken transport for granted so much that I’ve never stopped to really think about what an amazing thing it is.
Two months ago I started working at Ealing Community Transport and it was a catalyst for my personal journey to ‘stop and smell the depot’. And in doing so, I’ve started to realise a few things.
Transport is everywhere, we’re surrounded by it. It is a critical part of our landscape and environment. We’re so used to seeing it everywhere that we hardly even see it anymore. And it’s not just vehicles like cars, trains and buses but everything that goes with it: roads, bus stops, rivers and even the sky.
Transport moves not only us but all the critical items we need. It allows us access to education, family, food, work, play and just about anything else you can think of. Even the digital revolution relies on transport to get servers from manufacturers to racks and satellites into space.
Transport is what connects us, not just physically, but emotionally too. Because if you can’t physically get where you want to be you can’t emotionally connect with that place. Seeing a parent for a cup of tea, appreciating a great work of art with your own eyes, walking across a park covered in autumn leaves. Even just sitting in my flat I’m aware the things that make it feel like home are things I transported here to fill the empty space.
When we can’t access transport, a vital lifeline is cut off. Not being able to physically drive or use public transport leaves us vulnerable, dependent and, maybe worst of all, lonely.
And that’s what makes the depot such a magical place.
Ealing Community Transport’s vision is for inclusion and accessibility for all members of society, whatever their transport needs. One of the main services we provide is door to door transport for elderly people.
I’ll always remember the first time one of our passengers told me, ‘it’s the only time all week I leave the house’. And then the time another said, ‘I wouldn’t leave the house if you didn’t pick me up’. And really taking that in made me want to cry, because it was so sad that these people had lost their independence and because it was so uplifting to know that there is a solution which we can provide.
So, where some people see dirty roads, smell petrol fumes and hear diesel engines, I see majestic carriages, smell freedom in the great outdoors and hear the laughter of new friends being made whilst travelling on a little green bus.
No doubt this is just the beginning of my love affair with transport, but beyond the first flushes of infatuation this relationship has taught me something else.
When we’re looking to change the world we don’t necessarily need new ideas or new technology. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as using what we already have in a different way, putting people at the centre of our mission and seeing the beauty in the mundane."
As Christmas drew closer, Dorset Community Transport (DCT) found itself busier than ever helping young, old, vulnerable and disabled local residents enjoy pantomimes across the county.
DCT took two buses of young people from Hipp!!Bones, a specialised youth club helping youngsters with special needs in Gillingham, to the Pavilion Theatre in Weymouth to enjoy the pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. Proving a popular production, Dorset-based bus service Bus2Go, in partnership with DCT, transported more local residents to enjoy this traditional Christmas entertainment.
Meanwhile, a group of residents from Dale Valley sheltered accommodation in Poole went even further, travelling all the way to the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton with DCT to see Shane Richie play Robin Hood, with Jessie Wallace as Maid Marian.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT Charity, DCT’s umbrella organisation, said: “Christmas is often regarded as time for friends and family to gather and celebrate the festive period, however for many, this is not possible and the feeling of loneliness and isolation can be heightened. DCT’s services offer residents, both young and old, the opportunity to join in the festivities that many of us take for granted. We are thrilled to hear that so many people enjoyed the various pantomimes across the county.”
The Christmas fun continued throughout the pantomime season. DCT provided community transport services to Prime Time Kids Club, an activity group for youngsters in Wareham and took them to Bournemouth to see ‘Cinderella’. DCT also helped a group of young carers from Dorchester and Weymouth to see ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in Wimborne, helping to facilitate an afternoon off from their demanding responsibilities.
Tim Christian, DCT’s General Manager said: “With so many additional activities taking place over Christmas, demand for community transport is high. However, DCT relished the opportunity to help members of our community living in some of Dorset’s most isolated rural communities, remain connected with their friends and family, whilst having the chance to enjoy some Christmas pantomime fun.”
ECT in Cheshire provided local residents with a number of special Christmas shopping trips, including visits to Tweed Mill, Manchester Christmas Market and Bridgemere Garden Centre. As a thank you to local residents for their support, ECT in Cheshire provided these trips free of charge.
Ian Dibbert, General Manager of ECT in Cheshire, commented: “For many of us, Christmas is a time of celebration, and is spent enjoying traditional Christmas activities with friends and family. Often, this includes Christmas shopping! However, many older, disabled and vulnerable people are unable to access public transport, leaving them isolated and accentuating the feeling of loneliness they may already experience.
Offering special trips to local residents at Christmas time, and providing them with the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, is one way in which we can make a difference.”
Maureen Bayley (pictured above), aged 76, from Little Sutton who went on both trips, has been using ECT in Cheshire for the last eight years. Maureen commented: “I enjoyed both trips tremendously. It was a lovely opportunity to go out Christmas shopping with my friends and we even took a break and sampled some mulled wine! The drivers were so helpful, with impeccable manners and they ensured we had the best possible journey to both places.”
ECT in Cheshire’s Christmas trips followed on from their popular programme of Summer Day Trips to places of interest, both locally and further afield. Local residents enjoyed visiting a wide variety of places including Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, Llandudno, Tatton Park, Port Sunlight, Arley Hall & Gardens, Tweed Mill, Norton Priory & Museum, Liverpool and Ice Cream Farm & Candle Workshop. Due to the success of these trips, ECT in Cheshire is pleased to be offering another programme of Summer Day Trips in 2017 and will circulate details nearer the time.
On Christmas Day, Ealing Community Transport (ECT) and The Salvation Army together enabled isolated Ealing residents to enjoy a Christmas dinner all together. ECT provided The Salvation Army with a minibus so that their volunteer driver could collect Ealing residents from their homes and take them to The Salvation Army in West Ealing for a festive celebration.
With no public transport available on Christmas Day, many vulnerable, disabled and older Ealing residents are left feeling more isolated than ever, increasing the importance and demand on community transport services.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT said, “Although Christmas is a time for many families and friends to come together to celebrate the festive season, many older, vulnerable and disabled people can feel particularly isolated and alone at this time of year. At ECT, we were delighted to be able to help isolated Ealing residents come together to celebrate Christmas and ensure that they had an enjoyable day.”
Guests were also treated to some homemade Christmas cooking: Cynthia Alleeson (pictured above), The Salvation Army's volunteer driver for the day and long-standing employee of ECT, cooked four turkeys and brought them to the event for guests to enjoy! Cynthia, who has been a volunteer minibus driver for over 40 years, said of her Christmas Day adventure: “Collecting Ealing residents and taking them to The Salvation Army for Christmas dinner was a fabulous way to help people enjoy this special day of the year. If it wasn’t for ECT, many of our passengers would not be able to leave their homes at all, so it’s important that even on Christmas Day we continue to offer this essential lifeline so they can enjoy life and be part of the community.”
Ealing Community Transport (ECT) is delighted to announce the launch of the ECT Transport Fund, established to help support organisations in Ealing create social opportunities for isolated individuals through local accessible community transport options.
Launched in December 2016, the Fund will give local community groups the opportunity to bid for transportation funding that will stimulate new or additional community activities, especially those that benefit lonely and isolated individuals.
Successful applicants will receive credit of up to £1,000 to offset the cost of transport provided by ECT, including vehicle hire, fuel costs and a driver if required.
ECT has been providing community transport services in Ealing for over 35 years. As part of its commitment to deliver a public benefit, ECT constantly seeks innovative ways to work with local partners to provide local communities with safe, affordable and accessible transport that responds to their needs.
Anna Whitty said: “For many elderly or disabled people, getting out and about, socialising as well as visiting places can be difficult. Public transport can be a challenge, further contributing to loneliness and isolation. Research shows that many older people spend every day alone - not seeing or speaking to anyone at least five or six days a week.
“ECTs Transport Fund will enable voluntary and community organisations to fulfill, and hopefully exceed, their charitable objectives and help more and more isolated people to remain active members of society. This forms part of our commitment to make a real difference to ending loneliness and isolation in our community.”
To be eligible to apply, applicants must be a community and/or voluntary group, which provides community-based activities in Ealing.
For further details and to apply, please download the application form here.
ECT Charity has successfully retained two internationally-recognised awards – the Investors in People Standard and ISO 9001:2015 – reinforcing its position as a top-quality organisation.
ECT Charity’s Chief Executive, Anna Whitty, said: “ECT Charity is very proud to have retained these important accreditations – they demonstrate our commitment to delivering a top-quality service to our customers, and our dedication to supporting and developing our employees. Many thanks to all staff for their hard work and dedication in helping ECT Charity achieve its mission and retain these certifications.”
Improving customer satisfaction
In 2008, ECT Charity successfully complied with the International Standard ISO 9001:2008, which relates to an organisation’s Quality Management System (QMS) – a business improvement tool that helps put in place processes to continually improve and satisfy customers. ECT Charity’s Ealing operation is audited on an annual basis to ensure continuing compliance with the Standard – and has been successful each time in retaining the accreditation.
At the most recent audit in October 2016, ECT Charity’s Ealing operation was assessed against a newly updated version of the Standard (ISO 9001:2015) – and successfully complied. As part of this process, ECT Charity formalised its commitment to achieving its mission and commitment to quality with a “Quality Policy” – helping the charity achieve the internationally-recognised standard.
Investors in People
ECT Charity was first awarded the Investors in People (IIP) Standard for its development, support and motivation of staff in 2000 – and it has retained this accreditation ever since.
The IIP Standard defines what it takes to lead, support and manage people well for sustainable results, and provides a framework to ensure an organisation’s future progress and continuous improvement. Accreditation for this Standard is valid for three years, after which an organisation’s performance is re-audited to ensure compliance.
At the most recent IIP audit in November 2016, in addition to successfully meeting the Standard, ECT Charity was commended for valuing internal talent and fostering a culture of continuous learning and development. Further, ECT Charity was praised for valuing internal talent, identifying and celebrating good and outstanding people practices, having excellent appraisal processes and robust management strategies.
Investors in People Practitioner, Jeanette Howells, said: “I am delighted to recommend that ECT Charity achieve the Investors in People Award. ECT Charity are now definitely on the road to achieving Investor in People Sixth Generation Award at a higher level, and I have no doubt that this will be achieved.”