In 1990 Devon County Council had a review to make more efficient use of its minibuses with passenger lifts, providing transport for education special needs and social care centres but stood idle between 10am and 3pm. The outcome agreed to provide a Ring & Ride service for people who were unable to use a public bus because they had a mobility problem and who could not access a bus stop. This was a service that picked people up at their front door to take them shopping and return them there.
People wished to have their independence, to do their own shopping, meet friends etc. Many were becoming socially isolated and lonely.
It was agreed to take up the challenge to raise an initial £15,000, set up the charity and a Management Committee. After many meetings with local County, District, Parish Councillors, Town Councillors and public meetings, we agreed a service area – Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh, Otterton, Colaton Raleigh, Newton Poppleford, Woodbury and Lympstone. Each Council could have a representative on the Management Committee plus other local organisations eg. Age Concern.
We began with one bus(16 seater) which the Charity leased from DCC with an education contract. Over the last 32 years demand increased, as more people were cared for in their own homes and wished to have as much independence as possible. Booking always has to be one day in advance to be able to make sure the bus seats have been configured for the passengers booked. On a review of services, by talking to our passengers, we returned the DCC vehicle and ended the school contract. We fundraised to purchase the vehicles we needed. They wanted to call in Garden Centres, different supermarkets, pubs or restaurants for lunches, silver screen, in the summer have ice cream on the seafronts, visit Dartmoor or other visitor destinations. The demand then increased even more to require a single wheelchair accessible vehicle, to attend medical appointments, weddings, funerals, birthday parties etc..
Our challenge was changing our buses to 2 x 8 seaters due to the Government changing driving licences that a driver cannot drive a vehicle above 11 seats unless they have a full Passenger Vehicle Licence which costs about £3000 per person to train. Too expensive for a small charity like ours. This will make us more flexible and our elderly passengers will not be on the buses too long. Our constitution is for any disabled person of any age or temporary due to an accident/medical condition who cannot access the nearest bus stop and single mums in rural isolation.
We welcome donations, sponsorship and fundraise all the time. We are very grateful for the grants given by DCC, EDDC and all the Parishes and Town Councils to ensure our services continue.