Lifeline community transport combatting loneliness in the Exmouth area has been granted £30,000 to boost its service.
Exmouth and District Community Transport, which celebrates 30 years in November, has been awarded the National Lottery fund to pay for pub lunch trips after a trial proved successful.
Thanks to the funds, ‘Ring and Ride’ bus service users can book meal trips to restaurants and pubs, and enjoy company when they eat.
Jill Elson, Exmouth and District Community Transport chairman and founder, said the charity has been striving to prevent social isolation for residents who have been unable to socialise amid the pandemic.
She said: “We have taken a number of our regular passengers on local lunches, as a pilot, and asked them what they feel they would like us to provide in these difficult times.
“We have done a few lunch trips to local restaurants and pubs.
“The response was excellent and our passengers really appreciated having a meal with others instead of having a meal in their home alone.
“They found it very uplifting to be able to chat to others over a meal.”
Current social distance rules mean the bus service can take five people instead of 15 in its large vehicle and three instead of eight in the smaller one, with regular sanitising, and PPE for drivers.
Miss Elson said: “Some of our passengers are in a bubble together which helps with numbers.
“We make sure there are only six to a table. We do book the table in advance.”
She added: “We are still providing our regular trips for passengers to do their own shopping and sometimes we combine shopping with a lunch afterwards before they go home.
“We wish to help people who have a mobility problem to go out and meet others.
“Mental health is very difficult when you are isolated with perhaps just a phone call now and again.”
The community transport charity, which covers Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, and all the surrounding villages, said it was grateful for any financial support.
It said its income had been ‘drastically reduced’ since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Miss Elson said: “We are applying for grants on a regular basis but would welcome sponsorship and donations.
“Our fare income has been drastically reduced since March as other business and charities.
“One member of staff has been furloughed and one member has reduced their hours by half.”
In addition to Lottery funding, the charity thanked Devon County Council, for its funding flexibility, East Devon District Council (EDDC) for an annual grant of £5,000, and town and parish council financial support.
Also, £10,000 from an EDDC Discretionary Grant and £7,600 from the COVID-19 fund.
Find out more about the charity’s work here.[asp_product id=”17531″]