Henfield's community minibus operation was launched in April 2007 by the Henfield Community Partnership to provide an essential means of transport for those residents unable to access public transport and for group hire. A 16 seater minibus, having disabled and wheelchair access, was purchased and services such as dial-a-ride, outings and shopping trips established. The initial grants secured by the HCP and money subsequently raised enabled the operation to continue to run for over 3 years, exceeding the original aim.
With effect from 26th July 2010, HCP reached agreement with Bluebird Community Partnership (BCP) for Bluebird to take ownership of Henfield’s community minibus operation. HCP Chairman, Tony Jackson, said, “for some time we realised that without guaranteed future funding and more voluntary support, we would soon have to stop the minibus operation. We didn’t want that to happen as it has become an essential service for a number of our local residents. We therefore looked at a number of options, but it became clear that the best solution was to transfer the operation and assets to BCP who are a proven local operator of community transport with much experience, having built up a fleet of 7 minibuses over the last 10 years.”
John Griffiths, BCP Chairman, added, “we are delighted to be able to expand our community transport operation to include Henfield and give the residents the chance to make use of our extensive services. We will be maintaining the current level of service for Henfield and looking at ways in which we can enhance and build upon what HCP has achieved so far. The Henfield bus will be added to our fleet of 7 accessible vehicles which will mean that we are able to offer more trips, days out and services to local people and community groups.”
The agreement between the two Partnerships contains some important safeguards for Henfield. These include at least maintaining existing services for 3 years; allowing existing users to transfer free of charge to BCP; and appointing a member of HCP to the Board of BCP as a Trustee. Tony concluded “This is a very good outcome: it will help to secure community transport for Henfield well into the future; provide the opportunity for improvements that we could not achieve on a stand alone basis; and free up some management time to allow the HCP to focus on new actions for the local community”.
Bluebird began providing community transport services within the West Sussex Association for the Disabled (WSAD) as a volunteer run operation. It was extremely successful but grew very steadily. In 2000 it was decided to re-form it as a registered charity and a charitable company limited by guarantee. WSAD very generously donated the two minibuses then in use to the newly formed charity.
The charitable remit has not changed. Bluebird still provides community transport services within the Mid Sussex area for those disadvantaged for any reason and who cannot use public transport. Bluebird continues to work with other charities and voluntary groups who provide services to the same people. Dial a Ride is available for door-to-door transport which enables individuals to maintain their independence and at the same time be socially involved in the community. Bluebird also provides Group Hire services for groups of members of other charities and voluntary groups. It does also accept contract work provided such work is properly within the charitable remit. Bluebird now operates a fleet of 11 accessible vehicles across the Mid Sussex district and around Henfield which provide thousands of passenger journeys annually.
Information about the minibus services can be found here.