Forest Routes is “life-line” for community

People who have used community transport from Forest Routes have described the service as being a "life-line" in an evaluation of the service.

During the last five years Forest Routes has transported more than 277 thousand passengers either by voluntary car, Dial-a-Ride or on the community bus services.

In the same time frame it has recruited 21 volunteers, provided training for 175 people, engaged with 1,172 people through community forums and reached 1,075 young people.

These figures have come out through a recent evaluation of the Forest Routes project carried out by the independent consultancy Resources for Change.

Cllr Alan Grant, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Health and Wellbeing, said: "A huge thank you to all those who run and operate the community transport services for our communities. They do a wonderful job.

"The evaluation was all so positive and although the five years of lottery funding has now ended, the service will continue as the Forest of Dean Community Transport Partnership. We are excited for the future of this service and hope it will impact more and more lives in our district.

"Interviewees and survey respondents are all of the opinion that the project has increased the number of people who are able to get out and about. One of the interviewees pointed out that several of the lunch clubs were in decline and are now thriving, some with waiting lists."

Cllr Clive Elsmore, the council's Transport Champion, added: "I particularly loved reading in the evaluation how people who use the service find it to be more than just "transport" it's an "armchair to armchair" service. Volunteer drivers are more than just drivers: they are a friendly ear, helping to unpack shopping and also someone who can spot if their passenger is feeling low or unwell."

The evaluation also highlighted that there is considerable potential for replication of the service and this is already underway within Gloucestershire. The skills and knowledge gained by the partners and the wider stakeholders have been considerable and can be passed on to others. Already this is being done in small ways, for example, groups from far reaching parts of the country have contacted the Partnership and along with email and phone conversations have also received the Volunteer Drivers Handbook.

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