The Ethel Trust operates a community barge, providing trips for vulnerable groups along the canals and rivers of South Yorkshire.
In 2014, the Office for National Statistics highlighted the fact that between 2001 and 2011 there had been an increase of 11% in the number of people over 65 years old in the general population. Their figures also showed that the residential care home population is ageing: in 2011, people aged 85 and over represented 59.2% of the older care home population compared to 56.5% in 2001. The UK section of JLL Ltd. have recently predicted the number of over 85's will double over the next 20 years.
While this is good news that people are living longer, it raises the urgent issue of how to ensure that their quality of life is maintained, and how to prevent those individuals from the risk of social exclusion. Our project seeks to partly address this need by providing up to 250 elderly people living in residential care with the opportunity to spend a day cruising along the canals and rivers of South Yorkshire.
Evidence from similar work the Trust has undertaken indicates that the impact lasts long after the actual day spent on the barge. It enhances the well-being of participants and offers the opportunity for social interaction back in their communities, giving them memories that they can use as the basis for conversation with friends and family. This is particularly significant for those who are disabled, and who under normal circumstances would be unable to participate in activities based around the inland waterway system.
Our barge was specifically designed and built to provide full disabled access. Lifts at the front and rear enable wheelchair users to access the lounge area and both front and rear decks. There are disabled toilets/shower room, and a fully equipped kitchen.
Our volunteers have been trained to national standards, undertaken safeguarding training, and have enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks. Our volunteers are keen to engage with the users, and all of the beneficiaries will be encouraged to help steer the boat and operate locks and bridges if they are able.