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Community rallies round struggling transport lifeline

Members of Monkwearmouth and Southwick Community centre holding a table top sale to help raise funds after they face closure.

Members of Monkwearmouth and Southwick Community centre holding a table top sale to help raise funds after they face closure.

A COMMUNITY has rallied round to help a lifeline service fighting for survival.

The Echo revealed how Community Transport, which provides minibus travel for 50 groups in Sunderland and Washington, could close if it can’t find funds to pay for its services for the next year.

About £16,000 is needed to help the service which has been an invaluable resource for charities, youth organisations and community groups since it launched in 1975, driving them to and from activities.

A table-top sale was held last month which helped raised hundreds of pounds for the Southwick-based group.

One of Community Transport’s administrators Lesley Lawson said: “We had a great response from the article.

“Many people were shocked to think we may close down. I think it’s made them realise how valuable the service is.”

Community Transport, which was launched in the 70s as Southwick and Monkwearmouth Community Transport, provides subsidised travel for scores of not-for-profit groups.

Each year, travel fees bring in about £18,000, but it costs £34,000 to run its three wheelchair-accessible buses.

Lesley said: “Since the initial article we have been put in touch with a local councillor and we are looking at applying for Community Chest and other funding, but we’re not sure if we are eligible.”

She added: “It’s a continuous struggle.

“There’s a realistic threat that we will have to close by March if drastic changes don’t happen.

“Because the buses are used by children they have to be checked every six to eight weeks for safety, then there is MoT and servicing and general running costs.”

Sunderland Carers’ Centre, also based in Southwick, is one of the not-for-profit groups helped by the minibuses which transport young carers to and from activities to give them a break from their caring role.

Claire Alderson, young carer development worker, said: “It would be absolutely devastating if this service were to close. We work with 420 young carers Sunderland-wide who have parents with disabilities.

“These activities are so important in making sure they still have a childhood while being a carer.”

Other groups who use the service include Guides, Scouts, youth projects and Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association which provides sporting activities for people with disabilities.

l To help Community Transport or to find out more about the services it offers tel. 548 6278 or e-mail smct1975@hotmail.com.

Twitter: @sunechokaty

 

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