Car service for elderly and vulnerable expands due to growing demand

Cat Parmenter and her dog Etta with the Driving Miss Daisy. Picture: #CaninePartners

Cat Parmenter and her dog Etta with the Driving Miss Daisy. Picture: #CaninePartners - Credit: Archant

A community car scheme providing transport for the elderly and vulnerable in Ipswich is proving a huge success – and has already expanded after just a few months.

The Driving Miss Daisy service is a lifeline for those without transport, including elderly, children, people with disabilities, for a range of needs including shopping trips, hospital and doctor’s appointments and even holiday journeys to and from UK airports.

The Ipswich branch will mark its first anniversary this summer but due to demand has grown to two cars and a third could be added this year.

Nigel Stead, who founded the branch and is passionate about serving the community, said: “Last year, I set up the Ipswich branch of Driving Miss Daisy with just the one car.

“After building up so many meaningful relationships with my customers, I quickly added another car and hope to secure a third car later this year.


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“One of the key reasons behind why Driving Miss Daisy has been so well received by the elderly and those that care for them, is that their companion drivers give clients back their independence in a reliable, safe and secure environment.

“The ethos behind the service is ‘We’re family when family can’t be there’ which is invaluable in the UK’s current overstretched climate.

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“Every driver is first-aid qualified and they are presently engaging in dementia and Alzheimer’s awareness courses.”

Mr Stead said those using the service had a wide range of reasons, and while many just needed to be able to accomplish the essentials in life such as medical appointments and shopping, some have dreams of wanting to get out and about and see places they had been unable to explore because of a lack of transport.

He said “Some of my elderly customers have a bucket list of local places they’d like to visit, which include cheering on Ipswich Town at Portman Road, a morning pottering around Felixstowe, taking in the docks and pier, a cup of tea at Mistley or by the boating lake at Thorpeness, or visiting Easton Farm Park or Jimmy’s Farm.”

Mr Stead said part of the service’s main aims was to address the issue of loneliness affecting the elderly, carers, and those who have lost loved ones.

CASE STUDY

Cat Parmenter, of Ipswich, started using Driving Miss Daisy after her specialised drive-from-wheelchair car provided by Motability was declared a write off, which caused her isolation and depression.

She said: “I’ve had Cerebral Palsy from birth and after several years of deterioration, I use an electric wheelchair for the majority of the day, and travel with a working assistance dog provided by Canine Partners, named Etta.

“Driving Miss Daisy has, once again, given me the freedom to be an active participant in the local community.

“I volunteer at Sue Ryder and Blue Cross Re-homing Centre, which I find hugely rewarding as I give something back.”

Cat said she also valued being able to be taken to Kingfisher Leisure Centre, where she takes part in as various group fitness classes to enable her to exercise, and also to support her physical and mental wellbeing.

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