Community transport transforms lives one trip at a time

St George Community Transport have 24-seat buses to take groups on fun outings.

St George Community Transport have 24-seat buses to take groups on fun outings.

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THE ABILITY of independence of mobility to change lives for the elderly and people with disability can’t be underrated.

St George Community Transport’s Executive Officer, Kate Young, was reminded of this at the organisations recent Annual General Meeting.

At the end of the evening one of the clients stood up and asked if she could say something Kate says.

“She went on to say what a difference the service had made for her in that it is her respite.

“She had gone on some of our outings, she has made friends, been to places she has never been before - she gets time out and it’s her sanity.”

This spontaneous comment speaks volumes about the appreciation for the transport support given by STGCT to their 7000 clients.

STGCT provide transport services to the frail, elderly, those with disability, their carers and others needing transport. It is a government funded, not-for-profit that provides a quality, affordable transport service, relevant to the needs of transport disadvantaged persons.

But Kate believes the team provides more than transport, equipping people with independence and a sense of community.

“The big thing we are about is trying to maintain people's independence so they don’t end up in a nursing home before they should,” she explains.

Another side effect of a lack of transport is it can turn many seniors into virtual recluses as the less they can get out the less they want to.

Older Australians can struggle to run mundane errands when they can’t get around.

Kate cites trips to Bunning’s Warehouse as something most of us take it for granted.

If they can get there, a trip to Bunning’s can involve morning tea and then they can wander around and buy what they need she says.

The service provides transport for these kinds of day-to-day tasks, as well as other enriching, even lifesaving, journeys.

Friendships are formed and many good times had on day trips run by STGCT.

Friendships are formed and many good times had on day trips run by STGCT.

“Routinely people can be taken wherever they want to go,” Kate says.

“Our services are often used for medical and other allied health appointments and we can even drop them off early in the morning if they are doing a one day hospital visit.”

Trips to the bank, hairdressers or even out for lunch or to the RSL as social involvement is really important, are all available.

“That's what we're all about, making people more socially involved, more involved in the community.

“They can get to their doctors, and if they can be treated they don’t have to go into hospital as much and this helps to keep them in their own homes.”

The service also organises social excursions which have spawned many new friendships.

Group outings include things like the alpaca farm, shopping tours, historical societies, antique and design centres and this time of year, a Christmas lights tour.

“It is not just the outing, they get to stop for lunch or morning tea and chat together and compare notes and they make friends,” Kate says.

On top of providing transport STCT runs a program called Travel Training that gives people the confidence to use public transport again.

“A lot of people who haven't been on public transport for a long time don't know what to do. “Everything has changed to how it used to be so we take them and show them how to use their Opal card, show them where to get on, where to get off.

“It’s another way of increasing their independence.

“We also do that with a lot of disabled people particularly intellectually disabled people. “It's about giving them independence and control of their lives,” she says.

Over the five and a half years Kate has been with STGCT she has seen the whole structure of the organisation change as well as tighter restrictions and regulations and new accreditation.

The friendly staff at St George Community Transport will get you where you need to go.

The friendly staff at St George Community Transport will get you where you need to go.

When the organisation first started it used to be a largely volunteer agency.

“We are constantly trying to recruit volunteers.

“Back when we started people retired at 55 but these days we struggle to get volunteers as retirees have other commitments like child minding and some are working until they are 70,” she says.

The automotive side of service has rapidly expanded too with the fleet now consisting of 27 vehicles ranging from Camry Sedans to 24 seater buses. Many of the vehicles have been custom modified to accommodate needs of people who use wheelchairs.

To take advantage of what STGCT has to offer seniors need be referred through My Aged Care and be eligible for services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program. STGCT is also a registered provider for NDIS.

“With the rollout of NDIS our funding stops for disability so people have to come to us with their NDIS plans now,” Kate says.

She strongly recommends considering transport when doing a plan as it is often forgotten.

Despite the fact STGCT is now one of the largest Community Transport providers in NSW and demand for the service continues to grow, Kate believes many people still don’t know about them.

“I didn’t know it existed until I came to work here and we still find people don’t realise we are there.

“They don’t know about us, but we can make their lives so much easier.”

This is advertiser content for St George Community Transport