A Devon health and wellbeing charity is seeking ‘chatty’ volunteers to come on board once a week to provide friendly conversation, information and support to local people on the number 57 bus between Exmouth and Exeter. The Chatty Bus, organised by Westbank Community Health and Care, relaunched on Thursday, 28th July as part of an initiative to reduce loneliness and social isolation.
Westbank’s Chatty Bus route initially began in November 2019 but was put on hold because of Covid restrictions. The route is being relaunched with new funding from Devon County Council’s Connecting You project, funded by the Department for Transport, delivering initiatives that tackle loneliness.
More volunteers are now needed to staff the Stagecoach South West route 57 between Exmouth and Exeter on Thursdays between 10 am and 2 pm. Onboard volunteers will chat with passengers who are interested in finding out about community groups and activities they could get involved with.
Nina Parnell, Westbank’s Head of Volunteering and Community Support, says, “We hope the relaunch of our weekly Chatty Bus on the service between Exmouth and Exeter on Thursdays will provide more social contact for people in our community as we know loneliness and isolation are a major problem. For some older people and those living in rurally isolated locations, the bus driver may be the only person they speak to all day.
“Thanks to the Connecting You funding we aim to add Chatty Bus routes in more rural areas and we are already planning our first Chatty Bus Day Out in August - but we need more volunteers to help us run these services. We would love to hear from anyone keen to be a Chatty Bus volunteer.”
Devon County Council’s Connecting You project is supporting a series of initiatives that aim to tackle loneliness with transport, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). Connecting You supports projects targeted at older people and young adults who are most at risk of loneliness, including those living in isolated rural areas or who have a physical or mental health condition.
Councillor Andrea Davis, Portfolio Holder for Transport, Devon County Council, “We want to build on the success of Chatty Bus and support Westbank to deliver more support to local people struggling with loneliness. With the DfT funding, we are able to support a solid programme of initiatives helping our target audiences of the elderly and young adults. We want to ensure that transport is a solution to alleviating loneliness, enabling people to reach out into their communities to find support, company and companionship.”
The Connecting You Community Grants Fund will provide grants to projects and organisations to help connect people to activities that help tackle loneliness. For full grant criteria and to apply, organisations should visit https://www.traveldevon.info/accessibility/connecting-you