A TRANSPORT service which offers a lifeline of support to 50 groups in Sunderland and Washington could close because of a funding crisis.
Community Transport has been an invaluable resource for charities, youth organisations and community groups since it launched in 1975, driving them to and from activities.
But the Southwick-based initiative could close by March if it doesn’t find £16,000 for running costs to support its three minibuses.
One of Community Transport’s administrators Lesley Lawson said: “It’s a continuous struggle. There’s a realistic threat that we will have to close if drastic changes don’t happen.
“The cost of the service is subsidised at a minimum cost to the groups that use it, but we only make £18,000 a year at the minute. It costs £34,000 to run the wheelchair-accessible buses each year.
“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.”
Community Transport, which was launched in the 70s as Southwick and Monkwearmouth Community Transport, has applied to local funders and has been turned down for lottery-funding.
Now they are pleading for help to keep the service, which now covers North Sunderland and Washington, afloat.
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.
“The buses have taken them to Kielder and to Wales and many other places over the years, it’s such an important break for them.”
Jordan Haynes is one of countless young people to be helped by Community Transport over the decades.
The 19-year-old from Houghton said: “Had it not been for Community Transport I would never have been able to start attending Sunderland Young Carers 11 years ago.
“They would come and pick me up and take me to the group which my mum couldn’t do because she was caring for my brother.”
Jordan, who helps to care for brother Craig, 23, who has cerebral palsy, added: “Young Carers has changed my life and given me so much confidence and opportunities such as going to Borneo and Kenya.
“It’s awful to think that young carers in the future may not be able to have these opportunities because they don’t have access to get to the group.”
Other groups who use the service include Guides, Scouts, youth projects and Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association which provides sporting activities for people with disabilities.
*To help Community Transport or to find out more about the services it offers, Tel. 548 6278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.