Most of you will have heard of Ely Soham Dial-a-Ride and have, probably, seen our minibuses somewhere in the area picking up passengers or dropping them off and helping them with their shopping. However, most people will not be aware just how extensive our activities are, and the range of services we provide to the local community. In addition to taking people to do their shopping, we arrange a wide range of excursions to get our 700, mainly elderly, members out of the house. This helps to alleviate any feeling of isolation or loneliness. We arrange theatre trips, visits to garden centres, trips to the coast and pub lunches. We organise an average of three excursions each week. That said, our services are available to ANYONE, irrespective of age. If someone has a problem accessing public transport, we are there for them.
However, by their very nature, dial-a-ride activities are run at a considerable loss and, for that reason, we have relied heavily upon the support of county, district, town and parish councils. We also operate a number of contracts, such as school runs, day care centres and bus routes. The income from these activities, though shrinking year-on-year, is fundamental in being able to maintain our dial-a-ride service.
Unfortunately, around four years ago, East Cambridgeshire District Council voted to stop its annual grant towards our running costs. To compound matters, in February this year, the County Council voted to cease funding community transport. The Council also abolished the concessionary 50% bus pass subsidy, which will result in members being required to pay a fare double to that currently charged. The County Council also adopted a new bidding procedure for awarding contracts. Sealed bids will be invited and the six lowest bidders will be informed of the lowest bid and invited to bid again – but lower. No consideration over quality of service, of which we have a proud record. This places charitable organisations, such as ours at a considerable disadvantage. Commercial bus and taxi companies do not have to secure contracts to subsidise a loss making service, such as dial-a-ride.
At a recent Extraordinary Meeting of the Board, it was noted that, due to the loss of revenue caused by local councils’ cut backs, the charity was simply not viable. With great regret, the Board concluded that, unless alternative funding could be secured to replace the grants cut by the District and County Councils, Ely Soham Dial-a-Ride will cease its activities by the end of March 2015.
Obviously, our first thoughts are with our members, many of whom, without the services provided by Dial-a-Ride, will not be able to leave home. Their independence and quality of life will be adversely affected and, in many cases, they will become more isolated, housebound and lonely. Thirty four dedicated and highly trained staff will also be made unemployed.
It has been estimated that there are around 800,000 people in this country suffering from “chronic loneliness and, according to a recent survey, around 5 MILLION people consider their only form of contact with the outside world is their Television. Are YOU prepared to see a much valued and popular local charity which addresses this problem close and, consequently, leave the some of the most vulnerable in our society abandoned and alone? Last week, the ever popular and worthy Children in Need raised over £32 million for a variety of worthy childrens’ causes. Where are the similar events for “Seniors in Need”?
WE ARE IN DESPERATE NEED OF YOUR HELP!
We are not asking for personal donations. We need to be able to source on-going support. Do YOU work for a company which will consider sponsoring a minibus? Will YOUR organisation consider holding an annual fund raising event to support us? Will YOU lobby your parish, town, district and county councillors? Ask yourself this question; if Ely Soham Dial-a-Ride isn’t there to help your Mum, Dad, Gran, Aunt, Uncle etc maintain their independence and dignity, as well as maintain a social life…..
……then who WILL be there? Please help any way you can
Web site: http://esdar.org.uk/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 01353 661161
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