Many North Yorkshire communities benefit from community transport schemes and Tadcaster’s service has been operating for almost three decades – but since the coronavirus pandemic struck its volunteers have gone a step further.

The Volunteer Cars and Services Association was well embedded in the community and teamed up with the County Council to become the area’s Community Support Organisation, one of a network of 23 across North Yorkshire.

While volunteers have kept their vehicles on the road since the health crisis started, the organisation has been able to use other resources to provide valuable services for those who might otherwise have struggled during the last year’s lockdowns.

It is financed through income from a charity shop and that has become a pivotal point for some of the more unusual services it has been able to offer.

After volunteers started to provide shopping delivery services for those isolating, the shop was used as a ‘half-way house’ experience for those who had become unfamiliar with leaving their homes to become re-accustomed with a retail experience, before venturing back to the supermarket.

The shop has also been used as a venue for those with dementia and their carers to visit and meet volunteers, allowing one to chat while the other browsed the shop, providing a break from their normal routines.

Using the shop has helped TVCSA fulfil one of the obligations set at the start of the pandemic, to ensure those receiving help did not become dependent on a level of assistance that could not be provided indefinitely.

TVCSA manager Katrina Talbot said the shop was also used as a base for deliveries of entertainment goods, like books, CDs and craft materials, to help keep people’s minds occupied during lockdown.

“We wanted to make sure no-one was going to be stuck at home with nothing to do,” she said.

Working with our Stronger Communities team and other organisations meant they have been able to provide back-up to existing community and volunteer organisations, while filling gaps in previously available services.

That included making arrangements with the local Cost Cutter store to take telephone orders from customers, which TVCSA volunteers then delivered, providing an alternative to supermarket online services, which some people may have been unable or unwilling to use.

“One of the things we were very conscious of was not to create dependency, not allowing people to get dependent on things which could then be withdrawn,” said Katrina.

“We have been using our shop as a way for people who have not been out to have a shopping experience with no-one else in the shop.

“That means they have got out and seen people they don’t normally see. It is a half-way house to going to the supermarket,” she said.

Hazel Britton and her husband, Roger, are among those who have been helped by TVCSA and she said: “They have propped me up. They have changed books for us, and jigsaws, brought prescriptions and allowed us to talk. They are just lovely, I have no words really.”