Nine million people in the UK are lonely...
And loneliness is definitely bad for us, both physically and mentally. It is linked to people taking up smoking, being physically inactive and obese, and increasing chance of death by 26%, says the Campaign to End Loneliness. It can also lead to psychiatric disorders like depression, alcohol abuse, sleep problems, personality disorders and Alzheimer’s disease, says the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. Yet public transport cuts are making our population lonelier – about 300 bus services a year are being stopped, says the Community Transport Association.
For some people, this just means more time in the car. But for thousands of others – particularly elderly and disabled people living in rural communities – cutting a local bus service can be the difference between being able to get out and about, and effectively becoming prisoners in their own homes.
That’s where Community Car Schemes (CCSs) come in. A CCS is a local scheme organised by volunteers when volunteer drivers offer door-to-door transport (the driver's expenses are reimbursed) for people who do not drive.
Thousands of elderly and disadvantaged people rely on Community Car Schemes to reach the doctor or dentist, visit family members, meet friends, or even buy food.
But Community Car Schemes have added benefits as well: drivers often step in to help passengers with other problems, as they are a trusted point of contact when they need help. As these Schemes are not-for-profit organisations, passengers generally only pay a modest charge to cover the costs of providing the service, so lifts are much more affordable than taxis. Some are cheaper still, as they are subsidised by their local council or another body.