Celebrating the work of Ascot Volunteer Bureau

Ascot Volunteer Bureau (AVB) has been providing transport to local elderly residents for over 40 years.

CommunityAd Exclusive - Celebrating the work of Ascot Volunteer BureauAs we approach Volunteers Week this June (3rd-9th), we thought it would be fitting to speak with the Ascot Volunteer Bureau to discuss the incredible work they do in the local community.

Run entirely by volunteers, Stephen Kitson is the Secretary of AVB and we had the pleasure of delving into the history of this wonderful charity.

 

For readers who may not know, can you tell us exactly what Ascot Volunteer Bureau do and the positive impact you have had on the local area?

Ascot Volunteer Bureau was established in the 1980s to provide a safe, reliable and client-focused service to the elderly in the Ascot, Sunninghill, Sunningdale and Cheapside areas who faced mobility problems getting to and from medical appointments. The original idea – and it remains at the heart of the charity’s goals – was to make life simple and easy for those needing medical care and treatment but had difficulties getting themselves to and from hospitals, surgeries and other medical facilities by harnessing willing volunteers with their own vehicles who were prepared to give up some time to their neighbours.

 

As you are entirely run by volunteers, how are you able to run your quality service regularly and provide transport for elderly residents? 

In the early days, the service – which was and remains entirely staffed by volunteers – was office-based and received various grants to cover costs. Those needing help could call the office with details of their appointments and administrators – again volunteers – would match their journey needs to the availability of drivers. The only cost to clients is a simple flat fee within the SL5 postcode area or a low mileage rate for out-of-area journeys.

Although there are NHS patient transfer services and of course, taxis and private hire firms operating, the benefit of the AVB service is that the driver waits for the client whilst they attend their appointment and the journey is timed to minimise waiting either at home or at the destination. Additionally, many elderly residents say they feel they are making the journey with a friend as they often get to know volunteers with whom they travel regularly.

Over the years AVB has helped many hundreds of people with journeys to appointments and in some cases has taken on major transport arrangements for individuals facing intensive treatment regimes at hospitals or facilities outside the area – especially those undergoing daily cancer treatment programmes. Currently, AVB has more than 120 clients registered on its books with some needing weekly journeys to hospitals such as Frimley Park, Royal Berkshire in Reading or Wexham Park in Slough and even in locations such as Wimbledon.

There are around 30 volunteers operating at present – some are available every day whilst some can only make journeys on one or two days per week due to their own commitments.

At the heart of the service are the administrators who are the link between client and volunteer. Since COVID, AVB has given up a physical office and operates online with administrators receiving telephone messages from clients, matching them with volunteers using a computerised system and then confirming details to both client and volunteer. The administrators generally undertake to work from home on their own computers at least one day a week.

 

Are you looking for any volunteers, if so how can interested readers enquire to find out more? 

A good body of volunteers is always essential for the efficient operation of the service. Most of the volunteers are not in their youth so there is a natural rollover as some drivers feel they can no longer keep providing the service. But AVB is always on the lookout for new drivers and administrators. All drivers are DBS checked before commencing service.

One of the most rewarding aspects for volunteers is the warmth they receive from clients. It is a great opportunity to meet and help local people – many of whom have had remarkable lives and have wonderful stories to tell. It is also rewarding to know that for some individuals with mobility problems, the chance to get out for a little while with a friendly face can be a great pick-me-up.

For anyone who might have some time to spare either in a driving or admin capacity, there would be a warm welcome from the team and for any individual aged 65 or over who is facing travel issues for medical appointments the first port of call is the website – ascotvolunteerbureau.org.uk

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