SHOPMOBILITY’S transfer to a private company has been welcomed by Stratford’s disability campaigner.
Stratford District Council decided it was no longer in a position to run the vital service, which hires out scooters and wheelchairs to some 1,700 shoppers and visitors with disability issues from Bridgefoot car park, due to financial constraints.
They voted at a meeting of The Cabinet in September to transfer the service to Active Mobility, which services the shopmobility equipment, for an initial period of three years.
This was despite opposition from charitable organisation The Friends of Shopmobility, set up to raise funds for new equipment, who were worried about it being taken over by a new provider amid inclusivity concerns.
The transfer is in its final stages of completion and once up and running, Shopmobility will operate from two sites in the town – the existing Shopmobility office at Bridgeway car park and the existing Active Mobility office in Union Road.
The service will operate longer operating hours, while expanding with deliveries to hotels and homes.
And the town’s disability campaigner Elizabeth Dixon has spoken out in support of the move.
Ms Dixon from Accessible Stratford said: “I am absolutely delighted that Stratford District Council has supported the transfer of this valuable service to Active Mobility. Active Mobility are already knowledgeable about the business; as they have maintained the equipment for several years.
“Active Mobility will be expanding the service to ShopMobility users by making use of their premises in Wharf Road, Stratford, as well as the existing unit that is very familiar to everyone in the Bridgeway car park.
“When I initially read that the district council may not continue to run the ShopMobility service, I was shocked and started contacting everyone I knew, and didn’t know, to explain why Stratford needed a ShopMobility service.
“Gradually it became apparent that the council was not intending to close ShopMobility but to look for a different business model and service provider. A senior council officer was tasked with providing an alternative ShopMobility service model and with my knowledge of the equipment and grants I’d obtained for new equipment together with knowledge of potential users I was able to help. Accessible Stratford, which I founded many years ago has a large understanding of local mobility providers and Active Mobility are the natural successors to taking on this essential service.
“We weren’t sure how long it would take to complete the transfer; however it’s progressing well and I’m looking forward to an enhanced service. ShopMobility has been financed for many years by the district council but it’s now time for a new service provider to step in and I know that anyone living in Stratford and the surrounding areas or visiting for an hour, a day or longer will have their independence. This is access for all.”