How to set up a voluntary car scheme
A Voluntary Car Scheme is a group of drivers who volunteer to provide transport, normally using their own vehicles, to other residents who have difficulty accessing public or other private transport. It is ideally run by local people for the benefit of local people. Some existing car schemes offer more than just transport services, which can include running lunch clubs, befriending and visiting and doing small practical tasks for individuals in need.
Most schemes are affiliated to the Good Neighbours Support Service (GNSS) who help develop and support local voluntary car schemes to provide an independent, dependable and trustworthy service. At the time of publication 105 groups are being supported by the GNSS.
Case Study: Thorngate Village Care Group
The Thorngate Village Care Group was formed in 1991 in the four villages of East & West Tytherley, East Dean and Lockerley, as a result of the general view that there were people falling through the net of the statutory bodies and family care.
The first meeting included a representative from Good Neighbours Support Service, and two people from another established Good Neighbour group. I would strongly advise any new voluntary car scheme to involve the Good Neighbours Support Service as they gave us invaluable advice, and also managed to keep things in perspective so that we did not try to be too ambitious.
Following this, we called a general meeting to establish who was willing to help and what they were prepared to do before we advertised ourselves. We elected a committee comprising a Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary and eight co-ordinators.
We designed a card which gave details of the co-ordinators’ numbers, and the tasks we were prepared to carry out (a local printer did it for us at cost). This card was delivered to every household in the village, along with the monthly newsletter.
We applied to GNSS for a setting up grant and also sent letters to all the local surgeries, parish councils, social services etc., explaining our aims and asking for donations.
Over the last 20 years, 90% of requests for help have been for transport to hospital, doctor, dentist and other medical appointments. We also help with other tasks which included helping to clear a garden and organising the fitting of lifelines which enable people to stay in their own homes.
We celebrated the end of our first year with a garden party to which we invited everyone, and more than 150 people came along to during the afternoon. We continue to hold this event annually, this year we are celebrating 20 years of helping the more vulnerable people in our small community.
When might a Voluntary Car Scheme be Suitable?
Voluntary car schemes are ideal for rural locations with few public transport services as they may provide the only alternative to a high cost taxi journey, which for those on a low income can quickly become unaffordable. They are excellent at meeting specific transport needs e.g. medical appointments. As they provide door to door transport they cater for even the most frail members of a community. In some cases, drivers will provide additional support by staying with passengers during appointments or whilst they are shopping.
It is also possible to run regular pre-booked timetabled journeys as a voluntary car scheme perhaps to the nearest market town on one or two mornings a week. Operating a ‘timetabled’ service can encourage passengers to share journeys, which makes better use of your volunteer drivers time. A timetabled journey can also remove the uncertainty of volunteer drivers availability for passengers.
- Each scheme will need a committee, treasurer, safeguarding representative and a bookings coordinator.
- Having enough volunteer drivers, with their own vehicles, is essential to operating a voluntary car scheme, so that those in need of transport can view it as a reliable transport solution.
Capital and administration costs are generally low but may include sourcing an 0845 telephone number, publicity materials and the cost of postage and telephone calls.
The major costs of operating a voluntary car scheme are the driver’s mileage and expenses which are generally met by donations from clients. Clients are expected to make a financial contribution to the cost of their journey, normally sufficient to cover the driver’s mileage and expenses. Voluntary car schemes can choose to accept and reclaim travel vouchers issued under the Hampshire County Council concessionary fares scheme.
- Volunteer drivers can claim for their mileage and other reasonable expenses in line with personal taxation guidelines. For more information visit HM Revenue and Customs website (see below)
- Volunteer drivers must also check with their insurance company that they are covered by their car insurance policy for carrying passengers on a voluntary basis. Many insurance companies have signed up to the Volunteer Drivers Commitment, which states that they will cover volunteer driving at no extra cost. To find out more visit the Good Neighbours Support Service website (link below).
- Groups will also need insurance, which can be provided by GNSS if you are part of this network provided all volunteers have regular CRB checks.
What to do next
- Talk to the Good Neighbours Support Service
- Gather local support and form a steering group
- Identify a treasurer, safeguarding representative and bookings co-ordinator
- Ensure you are complying with all the legal requirements and have a clear volunteer application process and relevant polices in place.
- Recruit volunteer drivers.
Where to get further advice:
Documents and web links
Good Practice Guidelines for Voluntary Car Schemes produced by Hampshire County Council and the Good Neighbour Support Service
HM Revenue and Customs provide information on volunteer driver mileage allowances.