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Wandsworth charity joins London’s vaccine efforts

A Wandsworth charity has joined the city’s vaccine distribution effort by providing much-needed transport services to elderly residents.

The Wandsworth Community Transport, funded by Wandsworth Council, normally provides shop mobility services for over 2,000 elderly and disabled residents in the area, as well as group day trips.

However, its volunteer drivers and 25 minibuses are now being used to bring elderly people to their vaccine appointments, who may not otherwise have any way of getting to the vaccine centres.

Manuel Button, the charity’s managing director, said: “We started the service for people with vaccine appointments just before Christmas, and we soon realised it was very much needed.

“We have been in touch with the NHS about liaising with them to provide more transport, but they are obviously so up to their necks in actually delivering the vaccines that they don’t have much time to deal with this side of it.

“We were hoping for a proper system whereby they give us a list of maybe 30 names and addresses and we provide the service, but that never materialised.

“We are mainly working on an ad hoc basis where people who have a vaccine appointment ring us and we pick them up and provide any mobility aid they need, and then return them home.

“At the moment, the service is very much in its infancy and we are still trying to get the word out.

“We have been in touch with other community transport services across London, and some of them are transporting over 30 people every day for vaccinations. There is definitely a need there for the service, it’s just a question of reaching the right people.”

Manuel explained that it is not just transport for vaccine appointments that is in demand, as the charity also provides home grocery deliveries for elderly residents in Wandsworth.

He added: “We were still taking people shopping up until the current lockdown, but we had to stop that service as all our passengers are considered vulnerable and this is too high-risk.  

“Now, they phone us with their list, we pick up what they want and then we drop it off to them. Most of our users can’t do internet shopping, so this is definitely a lifeline for many people.”

Manuel also acknowledged the difficulties faced by volunteers across south London who now have no work due to the national lockdown.

He said: “When we get back to normal, that is when we’re going to have to go out and really rebuild our base of volunteers.

“I would ask people not to forget the good will they feel now, and to carry this with them as life starts to return back to normal.”

Wandsworth Community Transport is always open to donations, and you can reach them on their website or by phone on 020 8675 7460.

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