Shortage of volunteer drivers has devastating impact on blind and deaf people in Dundee and Angus
A charity that supports blind and deaf people in Dundee and Angus has issued a plea for volunteer drivers amid fears a current shortage is worsening problems with isolation.
North East Sensory Services (NESS) runs six social groups covering Forfar, Kirriemuir, Arbroath, Brechin, Dundee and Broughty Ferry.
Members meet monthly for indoor and outdoor activities and last year they were taken on a range of different trips to castles, museums, gardens and fruit farms.
However, the charity is struggling to find the required number of volunteers to pick up and drop off service users before and after the group meetings.
It means elderly people who are blind, deaf, or have sight and hearing loss – some of the most isolated in the community already – are left housebound as they are unable to attend activities.
Cilmi Eldho, volunteer coordinator in Angus and Dundee for NESS, said most group members are in their 70s and 80s and are unable to leave their homes for anything other than the activities run by NESS.
She warned of the negative impact on service users’ mental and physical health and a deterioration in their confidence which accelerates issues with frailty and unsteadiness.
Service user Patricia Simpson, 80, is visually and hearing impaired and is a member of the social group in Kirriemuir.
Patricia can only see with one eye, which has a cataract, and she uses a hearing aid.
She said: “I enjoy going to meetings with other people – without them I am isolated in my home.
“I can only go for these meetings if there is someone who can take me.
“Crossing the road is very difficult without hearing and seeing very well.
“I have to use a walking stick as I am suffering from vertigo. My mobility skills are very bad and sometimes I stagger.”
Patricia is currently helped by coordinator Cilmi as there is no designated driver in her area.
NESS has only one volunteer driver available in Dundee and Angus but requires five more so that there is at least one driver for each group to provide travel support to those attending.
The charity said a range of factors has caused the shortage, which is also affecting its services in Aberdeen and Moray, including the Covid pandemic and the retirement age increasing so people who may have been able to help are working longer.
Volunteer Gilli McCulloch said: “Being a volunteer driver can take up just a few hours a month of your time – or more if you would like it to – and fuel expenses are paid.
“It can make such a difference to someone’s life knowing they are able to look forward to an outing to meet others.
“Being a volunteer for NESS has meant I have met many interesting people and had the chance to get to know them a little bit better as I drive them to a function or simply to meet up with others who enjoy NESS activities.”
Gilli encouraged others to consider volunteering, adding: “You will probably gain as much enjoyment from the part you play as the person you are assisting to access a social activity outside of their home life.”
NESS also provides a one-to-one befriending service in Angus, but it is preferable that those volunteering can drive to enable them to take service users out.
Cilmi Eldho, volunteer coordinator in Angus and Dundee for NESS, said:
“We are in desperate need of volunteer drivers to support some of the most socially isolated people in our communities.
“The current shortage means many of our service users are unable to leave their homes to attend social groups and activities.
“This can have a devastating impact on both their mental and physical health.
“I would encourage anyone who might be interested in volunteering with NESS in the Dundee and Angus area to get in touch and more information will be provided
To find out more about becoming a volunteer driver with NESS in Dundee/Angus please contact Cilmi Eldho at