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Take me home country cars

We often focus on the early years of Royal Voluntary Service then WVS as a time of innovation, the million women giving their time and energy as well as bring new ideas of social welfare to the people of Britain. However nearly 40 years later the WRVS was still making changes and finding new ways to improve people’s welfare in the 1970s.

From 1942 to the early 1960s WVS ran various transport schemes mostly to take people to Hospital. In the late 1960s WVS ran campaigns for transport services such as Spare-a-Mile which provided vehicles to take older people shopping.  The official Social Transport Scheme (Ceir Cefn Gwlad in Wales) was launched by WRVS in 1970. Volunteer drivers in the 1970s would provide transport for any journeys other than trips to hospital which was still covered by the Hospital Car Service. You can find out more about this in our Health and Hospitals Fact Sheet.

One of the earliest pilot schemes was started in Dyfed, Wales in 1974/75 developed by volunteer Jill Walden-Jones who only went to a meeting to see how she could help as a member of the WI and left as the WRVS Social Transport Scheme Organiser Dyfed.

"I was called to a meeting by The WRVS in which they said they thought the whole thing was going to fail because they couldn’t find anyone to run the scheme, at which I was a little bit cross and I said rather foolishly ‘I’ll run the scheme for you, if there’s nobody else willing to do it.’ So my arm was practically seized off and I was told I had to join The WRVS. It was rather a strange start."

Of course all their fears never came true and Jill ran the scheme till 1977 when she became County Organiser but by then the Scheme was spreading across Wales particularly in Dyfed it reached Llandeilo, Llandovery and Dinefwr, each district was expected to have 6 or 7 schemes by 1980.

What makes Ceir Cefn Gwlad so worthwhile and memorable is its passengers and drivers so I will leave you this week with two stories from Wales where volunteers still take people home through Transport Services.

"Well of course, there were all sorts of funny things happened. This nice young fellow who was in charge Dyfed County Council rang up and said ‘What’s going on’, he said ‘I see a dog has used our, the Country Car Service’. I said ‘Well, yes, he’s an essential user’. The fact was that this was a fat old dog that could no longer walk properly and his dear old mistress couldn’t get him to the bus stop or, or indeed on to the bus but it was essential that he was taken to the vet. It was her need really, I mean she had an essential need of a car and they, they agreed it, but we always used to laugh about the dog because it established part of what it was about, it was the person’s need for transport."

Jill Walden-Jones

"By March right on schedule, our eight Country Cars schemes were completed. The district social transport organiser has put in a tremendous amount of work going to meetings, finding scheme organisers, knocking on doors etc., there are 338 members and helpers involved in this work in the district. We were asked by Social Services to take three people from Llandyssul to the Day Centre on Newcastle Emlyn every Monday. We arranged for two drivers to do this and after some administrative hiccups with Social Services this is now running smoothly."

Ceredigion District Narrative Report October 1982-March 1983

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 03 October 2016.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Wales, Transport, Country Cars