Mike Harrison, secretary of SATA, said "We are pleased that we continue to find worthy recipients for these awards, recognising a range of innovation, long service, dedication and much hard work for the benefit of disabled travellers."
Neil has been a driver with the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Company for three years. He is a volunteer, but like the paid drivers, he has had the necessary training to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers with a range of disability needs. Volunteer drivers are important to the company in providing service when other drivers are ill or they have reached their quota of driving hours. They are also important to the users in enabling a service to be provided which otherwise might not be available, and in offering a "fresh face" to the individuals and groups that he serves.
Community transport boasts that it provides a "door through door" service – a one-step improvement on the average taxi service – but Neil is able to offer even more than that as the following examples show. Without Neil a lot of the Company's disabled service users would be left more isolated and unable to get out to access vital life and health services, such as healthcare appointments and shopping. Neil is a regular driver for the weekly Assisted Shopping Project in Aviemore, and when he isn't driving, he is a regular assistant to one wheelchair bound client, having helped him for a few years. They have a great bond and Neil knows his shopping habits and helps him choose items suitable for his diabetes.
Neil also drives for the Visually Impaired Group and takes them on their outings and to their monthly meetings. This allows them to access more support services and support one another. They also get to participate in activities that most people take for granted, helping them to interact with others and experience their community and beyond. Without support like this they would remain lonely and isolated and not venture very far from their own homes.
The local Health Walk group are beneficiaries of Neil's services too. He drives the accessible minibus to their walk area and then escorts the walk, offering support to less mobile people.
The ladies of Grantown's Thursday club have Neil as their first choice requested driver for any of their trips because he is so patient and cheerful with them.
In driving our mix of vehicles - 2 accessible minibuses and an accessible Citreon Berlingo - Neil is getting people with various disabilities out in their communities, where they can interact with others and increase their social connections. They feel more motivated to participate in local activities and can live independently at home for longer. Neil helps many people get to services such as Otago classes, respite day care, shopping, health appointments and social outings. He also covers for our staff drivers' holidays and drives the registered bus routes, connecting the various communities in Badenoch & Strathspey, offering transport for all abilities and assisting people in wheelchairs and those with mobility or access problems.
Neil also sometimes delivers mobility scooters or wheelchairs, as part of the loan service offered by BSCTC. This enables local people and visitors to the area get out and about more easily. Visitors can leave their own equipment at home, allowing space in their cars, and experience the wonderful outdoors here, with their more able family members. Local people benefit from short term use of this service, following surgery or illness, or while waiting on their own equipment being delivered, letting them remain active and independent.
It is this flexibility in the kind of work that a volunteer can do that makes Neil so valuable to the organisation. But doing this work has also helped him.
Volunteering has given Neil a purpose in life and personal pride. He is a completely different person from that first day. His confidence has slowly grown. He is definitely one of the team and popular with staff, clients and other volunteers. He is a very capable, confident driver and is professional in his role. His multitasking is awe inspiring. He takes vulnerable people with varying disabilities to: our monthly Fish & Chips Tea Nights; monthly Lunch Club in Boat of Garten; monthly Music Afternoons in various communities in Badenoch & Strathspey; monthly Visually Impaired Group meetings and outings; weekly Assisted Shopping in Aviemore; Respite Day Care at least twice each week; social outings; healthcare appointments; Respite Holidays outwith our area; local Health Walks, and will also volunteer as a driver for people hiring our vehicles for outings or activities, as well as being the driver for staff outings or away days.. Neil also does other volunteering for the local Red Cross shop. He is passionate about peoples' rights, especially in regard to accessing transport or getting the appropriate support for their disabilities. In short Neil has grown through his volunteering and many vulnerable people have enjoyed an affordable, door to door service, providing a vital lifeline for them.
The SATA awards are for achievement. The award can be given for a one-off event or project or for a long period of service. SATA has always said that awards should not be given to someone for doing their job.
Chris Clark has been doing his job well for some years, but what has been important is that in this last year Chris has had significant major health problems yet during this time he has continued with much of his work providing information, coming into work to chair meetings and following up on actions from these meetings.
The results of his work can be physically evidenced by improvements in stations on the ScotRail network as a result of planning under the Access for All programme and obtaining the funding to implement them.
Chris's influence has helped to develop a culture of focus and change in his work-place and SATA believes that this is a good example of the growth of understanding of the needs of the disabled which is beginning to show in both the general public and in those who work in the transport industry.
Chris is a champion for rail travellers with a disability.