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New community travel fund to tackle loneliness with transport

A new grant fund has been launched by Devon County Council to tackle loneliness through transport.

The Connecting You Community Grants Fund will provide grants to projects and organisations to help connect people to activities that help address loneliness.

The fund is open for applications from projects and charities across Devon. Grants are available to fund specific transport projects tackling loneliness or transport related activities to enable people to access activities that will help.

The grant is part of a Department for Transport funded project that Devon County Council successfully bid for earlier this year, which will deliver a series of initiatives.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment, and Transport, said: “We know that transport can often be a barrier to connecting with others, perhaps due to living in a rural area or simply through lack of confidence in using public transport. Loneliness or isolation can negatively impact people’s wellbeing and can affect all ages.

“The Connecting You initiative is inviting community organisations to apply for grants to provide transport solutions to enable people experiencing or at risk of loneliness to access opportunities.

“Loneliness is not always about being alone, sometimes people can experience it through having a set of circumstances that can make them feel isolated, for example having a disability or being a young carer. Transport can help solve this problem by connecting us to people, places, and experiences.”

The Connecting You initiative is already supporting a number of projects tackling loneliness with transport including Chatty Bus, an initiative led by Westbank which enables more conversations on buses. Chatty Bus is currently running on the 57 bus route serving Exeter, Topsham, Exmouth and Brixington and there are plans for it to start on other routes.

Nina Parnell, from Westbank, said: “As a local charity we see the often devastating impact of loneliness on individuals. A simple conversation can and does make all the difference to someone’s day. The Chatty Bus service will provide a brilliant opportunity for our volunteers to have a friendly chat with people on route and also to provide information to link them into community groups and services which can help to reduce loneliness and isolation.”

Devon’s pilot project involves a variety of support aimed at reducing loneliness in over-55’s and young people aged 16-24.

For full grant criteria and to apply, organisations should visit Travel Devon’s Connecting You webpages.

Devon County Council will be working with a series of partners to deliver a series of other innovative transport schemes tackling loneliness. Partners include Devon Communities Together, Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, One Northern Devon and WestBank Community Health and Care. Initiatives to support people to travel include:

  • Recruiting travel trainers who will provide support to help passengers gain confidence in using public transport, understanding timetables, and buying tickets or using travel passes, in order to encourage increased independent travel.

  • Introducing a travel buddy system and developing on board support from staff/volunteers. This builds on the successful trial of the ‘Chatty Bus’ services in the Exeter to Exmouth area to encourage sociable travel and help people to switch to public transport from the car for some journeys.

  • Working with public and community transport operators on driver training initiatives to help improve the journey for passengers.

  • Targeting young people with a community rail project in Okehampton and a Try the Train initiative on the Waterloo line between Exeter and Axminster in East Devon.

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