Supported by the Department for Transport, Driving Mobility, the charity that accredits a nationwide network of driving assessment centres, has successfully introduced its new ‘Hubs’ pilot scheme to broaden information and guidance regarding accessible travel.
The launch of new services, across seven regional centres, is in response to HM Government’s ‘A connected society’ strategy which aims to tackle the growing issue of loneliness. Other Government initiatives such as The Department for Transport’s Inclusive Transport Strategy have also provided the catalyst to develop these new transportation information hubs. Complementing existing driving assessment services, these additional resources focus on reducing social isolation through more effective use of accessible transport and greater independent mobility. Each centre aims to deliver a ‘one stop shop’ approach to providing viable options for elderly and disabled non-drivers – ranging from information on accessible public and community transport through to mobility scooters and wheelchairs.
Edward Trewhella, Driving Mobility CEO comments: “The launch of the pilot Hubs scheme is a significant milestone for our charity and its service users. This new provision of advice and information delivers multiple benefits for the public, communities, local authorities and the health service.”
Nusrat Ghani, MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, access for the fifth of people who identify as disabled can be far from straightforward. We want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost.”
Driving Mobility is regarded as the national voice of assisted driving and independence. This charity oversees twenty individual organisations which offer professional support and driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. Centres operate either as independent charities or within an NHS Trust. Across the UK seven of these centres now offer a more holistic approach to personal mobility information, assessment and advice.
Operating with Approved Driving Instructors, Occupational Therapists and professional transport advisors, the Hubs centres are:
- Cornwall Mobility Centre, Truro – South West
- East Anglian DriveAbility, Thetford – East Anglia
- Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF), Carshalton –
South London and Surrey
- Wessex Driveability, Southampton – Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and IoW
- South East DriveAbility, Maidstone – South East
- RDAC, Birmingham – Greater Manchester and East Yorkshire
- North East Drive Mobility, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – North East
Driving Mobility is also running a similar pilot project in North East London, seeking to establish what is needed in the way of support for encouraging more outdoor mobility and combatting loneliness and social exclusion through guidance as to accessible transport options.
Edward continues: “Social prescription is a key strategy to combat isolation and depression through pro-actively linking elderly and disabled people with their community, family and friends. With greater mobility, people are less likely to need care-related support as lifestyles can be more rewarding and well-being is improved. With easier access to our knowledge, both transport users and operators can reduce risk and accidents with an enhanced travel experience for all. This is hugely significant in relation to reducing monetary pressures on the NHS and social care.”
Each centre has introduced an individualised range of services with a common goal – to provide transport advice, all in one location, for those who no longer use a private car. For example, Wessex DriveAbility based in Southampton, has focused on a digital platform, namely Goingcarfree.com. This website is easy to navigate and has been designed with accessibility in mind. Other centres have different approaches however all have been trained to identify signs of loneliness and how to mitigate social exclusion.
In terms of practical specifics, Driving Mobility hub centres can provide details regarding local bus, train and taxi operators in terms of accessibility, support services, fare concessions and staff assistance. Advice on assisted air travel is a particular speciality at QEF Carshalton through its Tryb4uFly service and assessment in relation to appropriate mobility products is now commonplace. Help with accessible locations and attractions can also be obtained along with awareness of useful local groups, charities and organisations.
Edward concludes: “We have now built upon our core driving assessment services to offer a truly holistic approach so that personal mobility continues after a driving licence is revoked or use of private car becomes unviable. No longer is there a need to search with the potential for confusion or misinterpretation, Driving Mobility Hub centres deliver a singular, concise resource, for greater clarity and ultimately easier accessible travel.”
Image: Helen Dolphin MBE, Chair of a regional Driving Mobility centre and leading accessible travel expert, is a strong advocate of the Hubs pilot project.