Since 2009 Emmaus Ruffec (France) has been leading an initiative to tackle a widespread issue, that of mobility. This group is based in a very rural area classified by the French government as a ‘rural area to be revitalised’ and where the unemployed and poor people suffer from mobility issues (the public transport offer is meagre and very few people in the region walk or cycle as a means of transport). Following a large number of requests for mobility support Emmaus Ruffec launched a solidarity moped rental scheme, providing mopeds to people upon prescription from a social worker. Mobility is a key ingredient to help people get back on their feet and thus the number of mopeds, the services the group offers and the area covered by the scheme has developed over time. In 2017 the association opened its first solidarity driving school in partnership with the local authorities and with funding from the EU as part of the European Social Fund.
This scheme ensures that everyone in the local area is able to learn to drive by helping those with economic, social or cognitive difficulties to get ready for their test. Those involved pay 25% of the total cost of their driving lessons, which normally cost around €1,200 in France. Every year around 120 people, selected according to social criteria, are provided with support for their driving lessons. The group’s mobility advisor also carries out around 150 mobility diagnoses per year in order to try to solve any transport difficulties which can hold people back both socially and professionally.
The important addition of the mobility advisor role was made possible thanks to how these services are set up in the area. France has national mobility platforms which provide national solidarity for mobility: driving schools, rental services and social support. But when the local authorities announced they would be hiring a mobility advisor in 2018 Emmaus Ruffec offered to manage this service. It seemed like a logical next step given that the group already provided both a social rental service and a solidarity driving school. This addition also helped the group to become a more comprehensive mobility platform and the area covered has also doubled recently thanks to the creation of a branch in Confolens.
The mobility department currently includes 6 members of staff including 1 person on a subsidised contract and the team also benefits from the support of its committed volunteers. Emmaus Ruffec would like to further expand the team in 2021, recruiting a third driving instructor in order to be able to open another branch (this is something that local politicians have been asking for) as well as making the Fleet Manager position a permanent one as the group plans to increase the number of vehicles available for rental. Emmaus Ruffec is also encouraging the local people to donate old cars as long as they are in working order or can be easily repaired by the group’s members. The adventure continues!