Our volunteers transport an awful lot of young people around the county, and a great number of our drivers report that they find driving young people one of the more rewarding elements of volunteering with us as they get to see young people developing their skills and confidence and grow into young adults with all the possibilities that entails. Indeed it is not unknown for some of our longer serving drivers to arrive at a new address to realise that a young person they used to drive years before now has a family of their own. Large numbers of volunteers are driven by a desire to feel more connected to their communities and I think that there is little which does that more definitively than participating, even in a small way, in children growing up.

Driving young people does come with its own set of particular challenges however. Not necessarily the obvious things like making sure that proper safeguarding policies are followed (although such things are obviously really important), I’m thinking more about how drivers feel dealing with the responsibility of having young people in their care. When driving adults drivers know that by and large their passenger will speak up if they feel something is wrong, and that they can take care of themselves to a large extent. Young people however do need a bit more care and drivers have to be more proactive in keeping them safe and feel a much greater sense of responsibility for young people in their cars. 

Recently, the government has brought in long anticipated changes to the regulations relating to child car seats. The first thing  to say is that these changes are long-overdue. The changes require that new car seats must be full high-back seats as opposed to the booster cushions which don’t have a back to them. The new style are significantly safer for young people as they create a properly scaled cradle for their torso, and crucially guide the safety belt around them at an appropriate height. While the old style booster cushions remain legal where they were purchased prior to the change in the regulations drivers and parents quite rightly want to use the safest options available to them. As an organisation that puts health and wellbeing at the forefront of what we do we also felt a strong moral obligation to make sure that the best seats we could obtain were available to our drivers. 

Having made that decision the practicalities kick in. Firstly how do you pay for a large number of seats – well, happily Cornwall Council do offer grant funding to community transport groups for safety equipment and were prepared to give us some funds in order that we could buy these seats. Secondly, how do you go about buying 70+ car seats in one go - well, the UK distributer of Joie car seats were incredibly helpful, gave us a really good price and arranged delivery leaving us with the ‘simple’ task of storing 70 car seats and distributing them around the county. There have been moments over the last couple of weeks worthy of an Ealing Comedy as I move walls of seats from one room to another in order for colleagues to entertain visitors and there are still some cupboards in the building where if you open the door you are greeted by floor to ceiling boxes. Since it has been the Easter holidays a lot of our drivers took us up on the offer of a cup of tea and a chat and made the journey to Truro to collect their seats meaning that when school started again their passengers had brand new, much safer, seats. It took a surprising amount of work to make it happen but it feels good to know that our passengers are that bit safer.