When I joined, I was told that being a volunteer driver could take over my life if I let it. There have been occasions when that seemed to be the case and I think that it is important for any driver not to overstretch themselves. There are always plenty of jobs available and I enjoy the wide variety of jobs, some being journeys of a couple of miles and some are several hundred miles, e.g. taking three ladies to Scarborough for a fortnight’s holiday. There are plenty of opportunities for Drivers to take clients on a regular basis, which has the advantage to the Driver of knowing what he/she will be doing on any particular day and thus fit in with other things which the driver wishes to do. As a volunteer Driver, you need a sense of humour, to be a good listener and a reliable car helps.
The Transport service is very important to the local community. There are many older people who cannot manage on public transport, or where public transport is simply not an option, particularly for those living in rural areas. We provide a ‘door to door’ service and will wait up to an hour for those attending doctor or hospital appointments. Our charges are roughly one third of a taxi’s. Additionally we take those with Alzheimer’s to various clubs and day centres, places they would be less likely to attend were it not for our service. At the other end of the scale, we take young carers to clubs where they can take time off from their caring duties. The list of those we help in various ways is endless.
Anybody and everybody who qualifies for the service can benefit from it. The elderly who can only get to the shops if we take them. Or those with doctors or hospital appointments. Those attending Oncology for a course of treatment, often involving many appointments. Or those who simply want to visit friends and relatives who they may not have seen for some time. In other words, everyone benefits in their own way.
Our service is becoming more widely used, particularly since we started taking clients from the West Malling area. We frequently receive referrals from NSW which operate the Hospital Car Transport service, but which has very stringent rules as to who qualifies for transport. Without a large pool of drivers upon which the Co-ordinators can call, then there is a real danger that the service will be unable to offer transport to those with a real need.
I think it is unlikely that we would ever have to refuse to offer transport, but there are times when drivers are on holiday, or ill, that finding a driver can become a problem. Additionally, a lack of Drivers places pressure of the Co-ordinators who do not want to have to turn anyone away. As it is, we require at least three days’ notice to find a car and driver. Perhaps with more drivers, we could reduce this requirement. Any person becoming a volunteer driver will gain a sense of serving the community in a way and at a time that suits them.
The service is always looking at ways to improve and perhaps a new driver would have some ideas that could improve our already excellent service. Volunteering as a driver does not mean you are ‘tied in’ or that you have to work every day. Even volunteering one day a week could make the difference between someone getting the Transport they really need, or having to miss an important appointment or perhaps not being able to get to the shops.