How to set up a voluntary car scheme

What is a voluntary car scheme?

A group of volunteer drivers with their own vehicles provide transport to residents without access to public or private transport.

Some schemes offer additional community services for people in need, such as:

  • running lunch clubs
  • befriending and visiting
  • carrying out small practical tasks
When is a voluntary car scheme suitable?
  • Ideal for rural locations with few public transport services.
  • An alternative to costly taxi journeys for low income households.
  • Meeting specific transport needs (e.g. medical appointments).
  • Provide door-to-door transport for those with limited mobility.
  • Drivers can provide support by staying with passengers during appointments or shopping trips.

Running a regular timetabled journey

Voluntary car schemes can run regular, scheduled journeys. For example, passengers can pre-book a trip to a market town one or two mornings each week.

  • Encourages passengers to share journeys.
  • A better use of volunteer drivers' time.
  • Removes the uncertainty of volunteer availability.
Resources

Your voluntary car scheme will need:

  • enough volunteer drivers with their own vehicles to provide a reliable service
  • a committee, treasurer, safeguarding representative and bookings coordinator
Typical costs

Operating costs

The major costs of operating a voluntary car scheme are:

  • the driver’s mileage
  • the driver's expenses

Administration costs

Capital and administration costs are low, but may include:

  • an 0300 phone number
  • publicity materials
  • cost of postage and calls

Income

  • Passengers are expected to make a contribution to the cost of their journey. This should be enough to cover the driver's costs.
  • Voluntary car schemes can accept and reclaim travel vouchers under the Hampshire County Council concessionary fares scheme.
Legal requirements

Taxation

Volunteer drivers can claim for their mileage and other reasonable expenses in line with personal taxation guidelines. HM Revenue and Customs provide information on volunteer driver mileage allowances.

Car insurance

Drivers must check that their car insurance policy covers carrying passengers on a voluntary basis. Many insurance companies sign up to the Volunteer Drivers Commitment. This states they will cover volunteer driving at no extra cost. Find out more at the Good Neighbours Network website.

Group insurance

The group will need insurance. The Good Neighbours Network can provide group insurance if your volunteers have regular DBS checks.

Next steps
  • Contact the Good Neighbours Network
  • Gather local support and form a steering group
  • Identify a treasurer, safeguarding representative and bookings coordinator
  • Ensure you are compliant with all the legal requirements and policies
  • Set up a clear volunteer application process
  • Recruit volunteer drivers
Further advice

Contact

The Good Neighbours Network supports many local voluntary car schemes. They can help you develop your scheme into an independent, trusted service.

Good Neighbours Network
Phone: 02392 899671
Email: adviser@hampshire.goodneighbours.org.uk

Further reading

Good Practice Guidelines for Voluntary Car Schemes – Produced by Hampshire County Council and the Good Neighbours Network

Case study
Thorngate Village Care Group

The Thorngate Village Care Group was formed in 1991 in the four villages of East & West Tytherley, East Dean and Lockerley, as a result of the general view that there were people falling through the net of statutory bodies and family care.

The first meeting included a representative from Good Neighbours Network, and two people from another established GNN group. I would advise any new voluntary car scheme to involve the Good Neighbours Network, as they gave us invaluable advice, and kept things in perspective so we did not try to be too ambitious.

Following this, we called a general meeting to establish who was willing to help and what they were prepared to do. We elected a committee comprising a Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary and eight coordinators.

We designed a card which gave the coordinators' numbers, and the tasks we were prepared to carry out. A local printer did it for us at cost. The card was delivered to every household in the village with the monthly newsletter.

We applied to GNN for a setting-up grant and sent letters to all the local surgeries, parish councils and social services explaining our aims and asking for donations.

Over the last 20 years, 90% of requests for help have been for transport to hospital, doctor and other medical appointments. We also help with other tasks, including helping to clear a garden and organising the fitting of lifelines enabling people to stay in their homes.

We celebrated the end of our first year with a garden party to which we invited everyone. More than 150 people came along during the afternoon. We continue to hold this event annually. This year we are celebrating 20 years of helping the more vulnerable people in our small community.