I sloped off early the other day, uncharacteristically I can assure you. The reason was I wanted to watch the presidential inauguration from the comfort of my own sofa. Anyway there I was, G&T in hand, mixed nuts at the ready, when by way of a warm-up the BBC showed a montage of highlights from previous inaugural speeches. It was really interesting. JFK’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you…” was included and so too was Ronald Reagan’s “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But the inaugural phrase that really caught my attention was from a president not known for his soaring oratory: George Bush – H not W.
At his 1989 inauguration, President Bush spoke about “a thousand points of light” by which he meant the voluntary organisations “spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good”. It was a fine simile. I like to think that we in Kensington and Chelsea are similarly blessed with points of light, maybe not thousands of them, but hundreds certainly and sitting there on my sofa one of those that sprang most readily to mind was Westway Community CT, perhaps because I had recently been on a visit there.
Westway CT was 25 years old in 2016. In that time, it has transformed itself from a small scheme with six minibuses, to a thriving, social enterprise with 48 vehicles, 60 or so employees, a huge pool of volunteers, 500 group members and 2,300 individual members. But it wasn’t just the scale that impressed me, it was the good they do and how positively they get it done.
The goals are to tackle isolation and loneliness, and enable people to live their lives as independently as possible. And Westway CT tries to achieve them in ways that are pleasingly straightforward and practical.
For example, they provide community groups with subsidised minibuses, with or without drivers. There is a community car scheme for older people and people with disabilities which can be used for journeys to classes, visits to friends, appointments with hairdressers and dentists or simply for an outing. There is a regular minibus service to the shops and at just £1.50 each way; it’s a great way for someone older to do a big shop without having to brave public transport. There is also a mobility scooter scheme that provides training in and access to scooters so people who are no longer quite so steady on their feet can still get out and about. And there’s more.
There’s a minicab service with all the profits ploughed back into Westway CT’s charitable activities. There’s wheelchair hire, disability equipment and then there’s the qualifications training: in first aid, manual handling and being a passenger assistant, and in professional driving too. So Westway CT is not only helping people stay independent and in contact, it is also helping people into employment.
If you would like to sign up for any of Westway CT’s services, or its training opportunities, or if you would simply like to help it remain a particularly bright “point of light” in Kensington and Chelsea by becoming a volunteer, visit www.westwayct.org.uk