New transport scheme aims to slay loneliness in Wakefield

Dragon Community Transport:''Health and Wellbeing coordinator Sheena Woodard with fcentre manager Lesley Wagstaff, trustee Tom Long, Chair of the Trustees Mike Holt  and business administration apprentice Joe Illingworth.'''Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Dragon Community Transport:''Health and Wellbeing coordinator Sheena Woodard with fcentre manager Lesley Wagstaff, trustee Tom Long, Chair of the Trustees Mike Holt and business administration apprentice Joe Illingworth.'''Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

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ISOLATED elderly people in part of one West Yorkshire city now have a means of getting around after startling research on the extent of loneliness sparked a community transport scheme.

Dragon Community Transport will take its first passengers in a week’s time, but is in need of volunteer drivers to ensure it can reach out to as many people as possible in the west of Wakefield.

It was formed after a partnership between the Senior Citizens Support Group, which operates in the Horbury and Ossett areas, St George’s Community Centre in Lupset, from where the scheme derived its name, and Age UK.

Using the centre’s mini bus, driven by volunteers, the scheme aims to get people who may not otherwise be able to take part in social activities due to isolation, transport or mobility issues to where they need to be to take part.

Individual help will also be offered to people who need support getting to hospital appointments, to go shopping or to other events.

The scheme was prompted by a report published last month by the Campaign to End Loneliness and Age UK which said a million older people - one in ten - are chronically lonely.

Sheena Woodard, health and wellbeing project coordinator at St George’s, said: “We know there is a real need for this. We ran a luncheon club in the past but saw numbers drop when people couldn’t find their way here themselves.

“It’s about reaching those people who would be stuck in the house without help.”

Tackling loneliness is nothing new for the Support Group, which was founded with the prime objective of eradicating loneliness in people over 60. It was began in 2010 after a local councillor discovered there was no support for lonely older people in the Horbury and South Ossett area.

The group’s treasurer, Tom Long, said it had grown from “a handful of people” to almost 500 in just a few years, with little outside funding and no paid employees.

This year, it already has more than 130 events and activities planned, but found transport to be real stumbling block.

“The prime problem is that of mobility. Many residents in this age group are reluctant to venture out of the house due to mobility problems,” Mr Long said. “We are now trying to alleviate this by the creation of Dragon Community Transport.”

The scheme is now searching for volunteer drivers to dedicate time to driving the mini bus for group outings or their own car for trips for individuals.

If you can help, or for more information, contact Ms Woodard on 01924 369631 or email sheena.woodard@stgeorgeslupset.org.uk.

As part of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, we are encouraging our readers to volunteer their time for support services or projects aimed at alleviating loneliness - like Dragon Community Transport.

This week, as part of the first anniversary of the campaign, we listed roles with the Royal Voluntary Service that urgently required filling across the region. For more information on vacancies, visit www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness.

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