A CHARITY from Southend can help more disabled people in the community after being successful in their application to a Department of Transport scheme for a new 16-seat minibus.
Southend Mencap has helped those with learning disabilities for years by transporting them to a number of weekly clubs and activities.
The society used to have two minibuses but the older 1993 model had to be scrapped a long time ago.
General manager Marc McOwens said the charity applied for the new minibus because their current model was costing them in repair bills and that it was a matter of time before it would be scrapped.
Mr McOwens said: “When we saw this application opportunity with the Department of Transport, we were understandably hesitant about applying as there are so many other excellent causes and organisations in exactly the same position so fully expected the programme to be incredibly popular.”
However, with the help of the written testimony of local provider Friends and Places Together, who rely on the charity for their transport facilities, their application was successful.
Mr McOwens added: “When the confirmation was received on Thursday that we had been awarded one of the minibuses, I honestly had to re-read the email three times just to confirm I had read it correctly as, quite honestly, if we had been unsuccessful I am not certain our existing 1996 model had more than 18 months left in it and that would have resulted in us having to close our transport services.
“I do understand that the new minibus will be available for delivery between September 2017 and December 2018 meaning that, just in the nick of time, our transport service will receive an unbelievably beneficial and much needed upgrade. Everyone at Southend Mencap sends their immense thanks and appreciation to the Department of Transport for accepting our application and agreeing to provide us with a new minibus.”
The charity were one of forty groups across England to win part of £2m in the second round of the £25m Community Minibus Fund.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Community transport is vital for people in rural areas, helping them reach shops, hospital appointments, loved ones, friends, jobs and education.
“This minibus for Southend Mencap will give a further boost and make sure the public can access the places and services they want.”