Shropshire Star

Good neighbour volunteers 'absolutely desperate' for new people as driving service reduces

Volunteers at a 21-year old lifeline driver service say they are in an "absolutely desperate situation" and at risk of ceasing if people don't come forward to help.

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The Craven Arms Good Neighbours (CAGN) dates back to 2003 and organises drivers to take elderly and frail clients who live within six miles of the town to hospital and other appointments.

Jan Chorley, the CAGN secretary, said: "We have gone down from 22 to seven drivers. The people who started it up in 2003 are having to give up and we are finding it really difficult to recruit younger people.

"We are in an absolutely desperate situation. We have already had to start to triage our work to prioritise trips to hospitals and will soon have to start turning jobs down."

Jan, who became a volunteer after moving into the area in her "late 60s" is now in her "mid 70s" and is one of the younger helpers.

CAGN is a voluntary, non-funded, non profit-making group, and a member of Shropshire Community Car Scheme. They take people as far as Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Telford, Hereford and Wolverhampton.

"Our clients are mainly vulnerable older people who are unable to use public transport for a variety of reasons including disability or dementia, and who need to get to medical appointments; many also need practical and emotional support in order to get to the appropriate clinic within the hospital.

"We also assist our clients with other essential, non-medical visits such as shopping, hairdressers and other more socially oriented tasks."

There are currently nine people running a phone line from 9am to 12 noon on weekdays, the remainder are DBS checked drivers, using their own cars for the requested tasks. They do an impressive 350-450 hours on jobs per month, for 30 to 40 clients.

"Our clients tell us that we run an indispensable service," she added.

"It was discussed at the last committee meeting, how we might prune our services, or whether we might soon have to discontinue the service altogether.

It is increasingly accepted that volunteering has a positive effect on one’s personal well-being, and is a great way to give something back to the community, but despite active recruiting attempts we have not been able to attract new volunteers."

The group needs volunteers who could help run the phone line. This involves having the CAGN main number diverted to their own phone once a fortnight, responding to clients requests and allocating tasks to the available drivers. This incurs no cost to volunteers.

"We also need good, safe and reliable drivers who will use their own car," Jan said.

They can choose which jobs to accept, whether they be short or long journeys, and how frequently they undertake them. A DBS check, which CAGN will pay for, is essential, and a mileage rate of 50p per mile is paid to cover expenses.

"We are looking for caring volunteers who will be empathetic and respectful of our clients’ needs," she said.

To help the scheme you should phone 01588 673732 on weekday mornings from 9am to 12pm where a volunteer will take details.