Falling numbers sees end to Saffron Walden Social Car Service after more than 40 years of helping the elderly

PUBLISHED: 09:08 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:34 08 March 2018

John Tarries has been a driver for SWSCS for 14 years. Picture: Archant

John Tarries has been a driver for SWSCS for 14 years. Picture: Archant

Archant

Saffron Walden Social Car Service (SWSCS), which helped the frail and elderly get to medical appointments for more than 40 years, will be closing at the end of March.

The service will be ending on March 31 after ‘reluctantly’ deciding it should cease operations following a steady decline in customers.

The earliest available record of the car service dates back to February 5, 1976, in a letter published in the Herts and Essex Observer.

It reports that the Saffron Walden Council of Churches launched a voluntary scheme known as ‘Walden Christian Service’ to help those in need by visiting the ‘housebound and lonely, to sit with young or old’ and to provide transport to hospitals or other medical services.

Roger Mance, who has been the SWSCS secretary for four years, said: “SWSCS is proud to have been able to help the frail and elderly attend their appointments at GP surgeries, opticians, dentists and the local hospital for more than 40 years.

“But in recent years the numbers using the service have steadily declined to the point that it is no longer viable.”

Mr Mance said the service worked on donations from the people using the service to cover petrol costs, insurance and telephone bills but the number of annual trips declined from 984 in 2007 to 269 in 2017.

He said multiple factors had led to the decline in users, including introduction of new drugs which reduced the need for regular blood tests, more people using mobility equipment and more elderly people in retirement homes.

Mr Mance said: “We do provide a very caring service for people. It’s fair to say all the drivers will miss the people they have been helping over the years.”

John Harries, driver for SWSCS for 14 years and treasurer for the last year, said: “I was still taking a lady to her appointments a year ago whom I first took in 2004.

“Even back in 2012 we were worried about numbers. We have given it time to see if we can pick up new people but it hasn’t really happened.”

Mr Mance said: “We hope that those people who make use of our service will understand this decision. We wish them well for the future and would draw their attention to the Uttlesford Community Travel Service which provides similar assistance.”

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