Driving Miss Daisy Barnstaple marked its first anniversary in June 2019, and those behind the scheme say they are delighted with the impact it has made in the community.
A cause which helps young, elderly and disabled people across the country to enable them to remain independent is celebrating a year in service.
Driving Miss Daisy Barnstaple marked its first anniversary in June 2019, and those behind the scheme say they are delighted with the impact it has made in the community. The Driving Miss Daisy brand provides specialised transportation and companion services for young, elderly or disabled people throughout the country, enabling them to remain independent.
Driving Miss Daisy UK Ltd was incorporated in 2014, and in 2016 obtained the rights to operate the brand in the UK under a 50-year licence from the New Zealand company that devised the concept. To meet the rapidly escalating demand for its services, the brand owner has also launched B3 – a directly managed company to complement its franchise operation. Driving Miss Daisy offers a caring companionship and transportation service using specialised vehicles operated and driven by highly qualified drivers. All relevant Companion drivers are trained and equipped to enable people living with physical or mental disabilities or a range of chronic conditions to live their lives to the fullest extent possible.
Mark Jones and Sharon Hunt started their franchise in Barnstaple, and the surrounding areas with one Daisy branded wheelchair accessible vehicle and Mark working full-time while Sharon supported him on a part-time basis. Things have progressed slowly but surely, and now they are both full-time and, in December, added another Daisy branded wheelchair accessible vehicle to their fleet and now have lots of regular clients as well as school and social care contracts in place. They are busy and getting busier all the time.
Mark said: “We both were interested in running our own business and wanted to do something that would be rewarding not only financially but emotionally as well and Driving Miss Daisy delivers on both counts. We are so pleased and satisfied that we are fulfilling the intentions we had at the start, which was to make a difference in people’s lives and retain independence and help prevent isolation and loneliness. Our clients are varied and, along with their families, the majority are more like friends than clients now.
“We have undertaken various types of bookings including appointments to the hospital, doctors, podiatrist, dentist, physio, hairdresser, vets as well as airport and school runs. We regularly take people to garden centres, shopping, lunches etc. We also have a small number of contracts in place with for schools and social care and provide transport on an ad-hoc basis for hospital discharges at the North Devon District Hospital. Over the year we have built up close working relationships with some care homes in the area too.”
Sharon added: “We have helped some of the most vulnerable in our community, including people living with dementia, visual impairment, mental health issues and all types of disabilities. Part of our service is that we are insured to go into the home and help our clients with bags, locking doors, putting the cat out etc. We have helped out with so many things like doing the bins, laying compost, filling out calendars, fixing clocks, inserting hearing aids, replacing batteries, putting beds together, taking items up to the hospital and so much more. We have even rescued one of our clients, who is a real character, from being stuck fast in a doorway on his motorised wheelchair.
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“As time goes on, more and more people and organisations are becoming aware of our driving and companion service and what we can offer.”
Sharon gave the example of Mr Buttle, an 87-year-old retired Vicar who has several health issues including macular degeneration, breathing problems and mobility issues. He lived in Saunton for over 20 years and moved into a flat in Braunton after the death of his second wife around nine years ago. The flat was near to a bus stop which meant he would be able to get out easily, which he did and visited Chivenor, Bideford and South Molton regularly for outings and lunch.
Sharon explained: “He also went on several coach holidays, but when the buses stopped, he started to become isolated. The local GP surgery made him aware of the lunch club held twice a week at Christ Church in Braunton, which is run by volunteers and they would help get him there but, it meant walking some distance to meet them. His mobility and balance was getting worse, and he finally admitted that he had had some falls and lost his confidence, which was difficult for someone who had been a part of the community for all his working life and also having travelled widely since his first wife died 35 years ago.
“His daughter Selina Davey discovered our Driving Miss Daisy leaflet in the Lloyds Pharmacy in Braunton, and that is when he got his freedom and independence back again.”
Selina added: “We know absolutely that he is in safe hands and appreciate all that Mark and Sharon do which is over and above what we expected, and the updates we get are great as he forgets to tell us what’s happening.”
Mark said: “We have built up a fantastic relationship with Mr Buttle and his family, and he is part of the ‘Daisy family’ now. Every time we pick him up we ensure his hearing aids are in place, he’s got the right glasses, help him on with his coat and hat etc. then lock-up. We walk him into the lunch club, hospital appointment or macular society meeting and get him settled and then do everything in reverse when we pick him up ensuring he is all settled back in his flat before we leave. We have stopped off to buy birthday cards, got his walker fixed and nothing is too much trouble for a Daisy.
“No story embodies the Driving Miss Daisy motto of “We’re family when family can’t be there” more than this.”
If you want to find out more about Driving Miss Daisy Barnstaple ring Mark and Sharon on 07868 013268.
By Lewis Clarke
Source: Devon Live