Community bus operators on board with scheme to tackle loneliness

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, recently visited the Let’s Chat bus, run by Community Transport Group, when it pulled into Asda’s car park in Oldbury.

A new partnership between Transport for West Midlands and community transport operators across the region is helping to connect people experiencing loneliness and social isolation with new friends and vital support services.

Over three million people across Britain have described themselves as chronically lonely in 2022* – equal to the population of the West Midlands.

Through the Tackling Loneliness with Transport: Let’s Chat scheme, TfWM, is sending mini buses into communities to provide residents with a safe space to enjoy a cuppa and a chat, and to get advice, or find out about local services and support groups in their area.

The Let's Chat scheme is funded by a £460,000 grant from the Department for Transport.

It is now available in Walsall and Wolverhampton (run by Walsall Community Transport) and Sandwell and Dudley (run by Community Transport Group).

Since being launched at the end of November, over 100 residents aged between 26 to 99 have engaged with the service and been signposted to help with a range of issues such as how to access support for energy bills, mental health, food banks, housing, transport, health and wellbeing, financial advice, and employment and training.

In 2023, Let’s Chat will aim to reach even more people when it is expanded further with more Community Hubs set to be established in bus stations in Coventry, Dudley, Walsall, and West Bromwich.

A hub is already open at Bilston Bus Station every Monday and Friday. The funding is also supporting passengers to attend any activities or services they hear about when attending the Community Hubs with low-cost, door-to-door transport for people living in the scheme area who might need a helping hand to get there. The Mayor said:

“Any steps we can take to tackle loneliness and isolation in our communities – especially at Christmas time – is very welcome indeed.

“The pilot Let’s Chat scheme has been hugely successful and that’s why I’m so pleased to see it not only continue but also now extended into other parts of the West Midlands.

“Our public transport network plays a vital role in connecting local people right across our region and now alongside our partners we’ve found another way it can connect locals.”


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