South Gloucestershire mobility scheme Shopmobility under threat unless more funding is found
A SOUTH Gloucestershire mobility scheme is facing financial difficulties as its primary funding runs out.
Shopmobility South Gloucestershire, based in Yate Shopping Centre, has proved extremely popular since its launch in 2006.
The service lends battery-powered scooters and wheelchairs to members of the public with limited mobility, allowing them to retain their independence, shop and use the centre’s facilities.
Over 900 different people have used the service since its launch seven years ago.
Shopmobility has been funded by donations from South Gloucestershire Council, The National Lottery and local Parish and Town councils.
However the Lottery funding is due to finish within the next year, leaving the scheme facing an uncertain future unless new funding is secured.
Shopmobility project worker Sheridan Crew said they were now keeping their fingers crossed for future donations.
"There’s always a level of uncertainty about where funding is going to come in from," he said. "We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a cushion from the Lottery for the past five years.
"The question is if it is considered to be an important service. I don’t think people always recognise how important the service is until they are suddenly unable to get around."
This may be due to losing the ability to drive, recovering from an operation or having age-related disabilities.
As well as allowing people to get around shops independently, Shopmobilty loans out equipment to people with temporary disabilities.
This offers significant cost-savings over private hire or purchase of scooters and wheelchairs with users paying just £7 a week for a scooter and £3 a week for a wheelchair.
The service currently has 14 scooters available for hire, three of which are collapsible so can be put in the boot of a car.
Shopmobility users typically value the independence the equipment gives them.
In the past year there have been 1,200 hires from over 200 different users and the team registered 100 new members, demonstrating the continued uptake in the service.
Mr Crewe explained: "There continues to be a real need for people to have access to a scooter or wheelchair given the difficulties people experience with mobility problems.
"The impact long term physical problems or sudden illness such as a stroke or accident can leave people feeling very socially and emotionally isolated."
Andrew Lowrey, Yate Shopping Centre manager, said the scheme was valuable to shoppers.
"We are pleased to help Shopmobility and recognise its importance to our shoppers," he said. "We have had extensive involvement with them since their incorporation and currently help them with scooter storage and charging."
Mr Crewe: "We so often hear from people saying that it’s been a Godsend. I guess we are hoping that if there are sufficient numbers of people using the service, then it’s something worth continuing."
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “We currently provide some support for Shopmobility South Gloucestershire and if the service was under threat we would work with them to explore all possible options for them to remain in business. Shopmobility provide an essential service for their users and also bring considerable benefits to Yate Shopping Centre.”
To find out more about using or helping Shopmobility, contact the office on 01454 868718 on Tuesday and Friday from 9.30am to 4pm and Thursday and Saturday from 9.30am to 2pm or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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