Use of 4x4 vehicle just right for charity supporting older people

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A north Northumberland charity which supports older people has benefitted from a special bursary providing it with a Land Rover for a year.

Bell View, which provides a wide range of services from its base in the centre of Belford, was a successful beneficiary of the Land Rover Bursary scheme, part of the Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF).

Now that the charity is coming to the end of its year-long loan of first a Freelander and then a top-of-the-range Discovery Sport, Bell View’s manager Paul Harrison has reflected on how the vehicle has helped support their work.

Bell View’s connection with the PCF dated back to a few years’ prior to this bursary scheme, when the charity applied successfully for funding for a new Bringo – as they call their community transport vehicles, because they bring and go.

The new vehicle cost around £24,000 and the Prince’s fund provided £13,000 around three-and-a-half years ago.

Paul explained that they then saw that the PCF had the new Land Rover Bursary scheme and at that time Bell View had just launched its second business – Bell View Help at Home, a home-care service.

“We were a little concerned that it was getting bigger and bigger and it was coming up to winter,” he said.

“We were successful so David Robertson, the home-care manager, and I went down to Eastnor Castle – Land Rover’s off-road experience centre – which was a really big treat for us. It was absolutely fantastic.

“We didn’t get the bad winter we expected so we didn’t get the opportunity to have to rally round and transport care workers.”

Nonetheless, the charity has still found it very useful to have the top-of-the-range Land Rover as its services cover a wide area across north Northumberland with Belford at its centre, for example, south to Whittingham and up to Milfield.

Paul said: “We have used it to do prescription runs to Holy Island and Lowick and used it to transport wheelchairs.

“We have also used it as a supplementary vehicle for our community transport scheme.

“The other thing it has come in handy for is when our care workers’ vehicles have been out of action – it’s an extra vehicle.

“It’s been a great PR exercise for a small charity like us, because people see us out and about and wonder why Bell View has a brand-new Land Rover. They ask questions and we can tell them all about it and what we do.”

One woman, who had been transported to the hairdresser’s in the village, said that she felt like the Queen, being treated to such luxurious transport.

The charity’s management is adamant that it has most definitely benefitted by improving, expanding and ensuring the continuity of services, supporting its numerous charitable and trading activities.

It is helping them to combat the rural isolation that affects older people, supporting rural enterprises and enabling the continuity of access to vital services for older people.

And the charity was able to share its experience with the Land Rover Bursary with the main man, Prince Charles, when he visited the Great Yorkshire Show this summer.

While there, he met both Paul and the charity’s chairwoman Christine Harris.

Paul said: “The Land Rover Discovery Sport is proving to be absolutely invaluable in helping us to delilver our Help at Home programme.

“Not only does it enable us to reach those living in the most remote areas, the vehicle’s capabilities provide the older people we work with the reassurance they need.

“When living out in the wilds of Northumberland, they need to know that in the event of poor weather conditions, we can and will make every effort to reach them, to provide them with the vital care services they need.”

But Paul also pays tribute to the charity’s more than 50 volunteers. “They are a very committed group of volunteers and we couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Two trading arms under one roof

The Help at Home service was the second trading arm set up by the charity in the last couple of years.

The other business the charity has is much more established, having been set up around a decade ago.

For the day-care service, older people come two to three times a week and they will be picked up from up to 20 miles away.

Paul Harrison said: “But it’s really about helping them to live at home; some may have an older partner at home or they may have a carer so it’s about an extra bit of support. It’s been running for 10 years and about 15 people come in each day.”

One of the advantages at Bell View is that it’s all in one place.

“It starts from a very low level; they might come in for an arts and crafts session then they might use the community transport then they might move into one of our bungalows here then they might come to the day centre,” Paul explained.

“As people get older, they need more support and we can offer it all in one place.”