Bus station community hubs secure funding to continue

Let's Chat regulars at West Bromwich Bus Station

Community drop-in centres based at three of the region’s bus stations will remain open thanks to funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The Let's Chat hubs were set up by community transport groups in disused shop units at Coventry, Walsall and West Bromwich bus stations as part of the wider pilot scheme.

They have proven to be very popular and have helped to connect more than 7,500 local people experiencing loneliness and social isolation with new friends and vital support services.

With the 12-month Government-funded programme coming to an end, the hubs were left looking for extra funding or facing closure.

The WMCA has now given them the lifeline they need with funding from its health and communities programme and from its Transport for West Midlands budget meaning the hubs will now remain open until at least March 2024.

A sustainable longer-term fund has also now been identified and a bid will be prepared by the providers. 

The hubs have been a vital lifeline for users and keeping them open will support efforts to tackle the negative impact of increased isolation and loss of social interaction across the region on the back of the pandemic.

One of the key aims of the recently published second report by the WMCA-convened West Midlands Mental Health Commission. Kevin Muldowney, who uses the Let’s Chat hub at Walsall Bus Station, said:

“This is an essential service for people in the Walsall area, it has helped a lot of people with their problems and I have found it really useful to be able to sit and talk with like-minded people.

“Its location is ideal for everyone. I can just get off the bus and I’m here. This funding will mean Walsall will keep a fantastic amenity in the heart of the town that’s available for the whole community.”

Dudley Bus Station is set to be redeveloped as a new Metro interchange so a Let’s Chat hub there has now closed. The hub at Bilston will continue to be available on Mondays only.


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