Last week Audit Scotland released its report into Transport for Health and Social Care. One of the most significant ways transport for health and social care is provided is through the community transport initiatives run by organisations like WRVS. As community transport is a major part of WRVS’ work in Scotland this report is really important for our work.
It was really good to see that the report recognises how vital transport is to older people’s quality of life. While often overlooked community transport means it’s possible for people to get to the shops, visit their friends and attend hospital appointments. This means that transport is a vital way in which we can stop loneliness.
The report has amongst its conclusions that there are funding pressures on voluntary sector provision, better scope to join up services and potential for better joint working with the voluntary sector. While we knew this, it’s good to have it confirmed in an official report.
Loneliness is surprisingly common. Shockingly half of older people say that the television is their main source of company. Across the UK, 200,000 older people don’t get help to get out of their homes, and organisations like WRVS have a really important role to play in improving quality of life for those people.
Community transport is a vital part of combating loneliness and helping older people live happier, more fulfilled lives, getting them out to the shops, to social events and to vital appointments at the hospital or GP. By helping older people get out of their houses WRVS and other voluntary sector organisations make it easier for older people to stay part of the community. This reduces loneliness and isolation which are often triggers for ill health.
So it’s clear that the community transport services WRVS provides make a huge difference to the lives of older people. But these services are under pressure and need to be properly funded. Too often the value that community transport gives to people’s lives to the community is overlooked when funding decisions are made. Similarly, organisations like WRVS could make an even greater difference if services were better joined up across council boundaries and between Councils and Health Boards.
Better support for community transport will lead to reduced loneliness, and all the health and social benefits that come with reduced loneliness. It is vital to ensuring we have an active older population that local authorities and health boards take community transport seriously. That must mean proper funding that recognises the role that transport plays in preventing loneliness and more support for better joint working between organisations like WRVS, the NHS and local government.