A NEW specialist service is being launched to help alleviate the loneliness of socially-excluded and vulnerable people in Redcar and Cleveland.

Community Transport with Care, which launches on October 1, is aimed at people, young and older, who struggle to leave their homes for a variety of reasons.

The service – the first of its kind in the area - is being run by Guisborough-based homecare company Caremark (Redcar and Cleveland).

Managing director Charles Folkes said: “For most people, being able to get in a car to visit friends, go shopping or drive to school is something that is taken for granted. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone.

“But by using our service, we will take care of everything, from meeting people in their homes, helping them in and out of the vehicle, which has full wheelchair/mobility scooter access, and taking them to wherever they wish to go.

“It’s important to stress that this is much more than just a transport service. Our staff will also be to provide companionship which, if you are living alone with no family or friends to support you, can make such an important difference.”

People who use the Community Transport with Care service will be picked up by a specially-adapted Citroen Berlingo multi-space vehicle. The seats in the back fold down to enable wheelchair access, via a fold down ramp, and an electric winch that is installed in the vehicle.

And councillor David Walsh, Redcar and Cleveland's cabinet member for adult services, has welcomed the move to help people stay in touch.

He said: "It's good to see this new service on the road. It looks to be another weapon in the locker which helps to combat loneliness and isolation for the elderly and disabled, allowing them the freedom to escape the four walls of their home.”

The drivers who provide the service all hold nationally recognised car

e qualifications, in addition to having a current Disclosure and Barring Service check and being approved as a licensed private hire driver by the council.

The first qualified driver Richard Taylor, from Guisborough, said: “Social exclusion can have a devastating impact on peoples’ health and wellbeing so I am really looking forward to helping people, whether that’s taking them for medical appointments or for a trip to the beach.”

The Community Transport with Care service is open to anyone living in Redcar and Cleveland and bookings are being taken now ahead of its launch next month.

For more information telephone 01287-634706 or email communitytransport@caremark.co.uk