Gloucester Shopmobility is now ready to reopen its service to users tomorrow

July has seen shopmobilities across the UK reopen to help meet the needs of elderly and disabled consumers, with another two services set to resume in the coming weeks.

Throughout the month, shopmobilities in Carlisle, Huntington, Livingston, Macclesfield, Warrington and more have recommenced operations following the coronavirus lockdown. Now, Gloucester Shopmobility and Crewe Shopmobility have confirmed they will reopen on the 28 July and 3 August respectively.

Often embellished as self-managed, independent charities or as part of local authorities’ services, shopmobilities provide mobility aids to individuals who visit shopping destinations on either a free or small fee basis.

The services often act as an important lifeline for elderly and disabled consumers wishing to visit local town centres who require additional mobility assistance when they arrive.

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With COVID-19 being particularly dangerous for many older and disabled individuals, coupled with the difficulty of safely managing fleets of scooters and wheelchairs provided on short-term leases, many shopmobilities have been later to reopen than others in the retail sector.

Instead, many have been adapting to the new normal and introducing new policies and measures to become COVID-19 Secure, ensuring they can continue providing the services safely to users.

Discussing the decision to delay reopening its Warrington shopmobility service until the 13th July, Dave Thompson MBE DL, CEO of Warrington Disability Partnership, told the Warrington Guardian: “We have left a couple of weeks after the shops opened again to reopen Shopmobility, because we wanted to give the town centre time to get used to its one-way systems and to make sure that the space available was conducive with the safe use of mobility scooters.

“We’ve put into place all the strict Covid-19 guidelines, such as protective screens on the counters, regular cleaning and hand sanitisers.”

Resuming its service on the 28th July, Gloucester Shopmobility has also implemented a number of new measures, including a revised opening schedule, hire terms and queueing system – including drop off and collections bays.

Additionally, sanitising stations will be available, along with relevant PPE for staff and a scooter cleaning area where the mobility devices are cleaned at the beginning of each day and on return.

Cllr Jennie Watkins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods at Gloucester City Council, said: “It’s fantastic that we are able to reopen the service to the public, as we know how valued it is by those who use it.

“Getting people back into our city’s shops is also really critical to Gloucester’s recovery from a difficult few months, and Shopmobility provides accessibility to those residents and visitors who need help getting around the businesses and attractions in the city.”

12 scooters will be available for hire for essential shopping, confirmed the council, with customers being required to book their scooters at least 24 hours in advance. It is also staggering collection slots by 15 minutes per collection.

“The Shopmobility team is ready to give customers a positive experience and we’re grateful for their patience as the staff made sure they could reopen as safely as possible,” added Cllr Watkins.

In Crewe, alongside reopening its shopmobility service, the town’s FlexiLink bus will also restart in early August.

Discussing the decision to suspend both services on 23 March, Councillor Craig Browne, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “This is really good news and I am delighted the council can now look to restart these important services for our older and more vulnerable residents.

“The suspension of FlexiLink, and our Shopmobility service in Crewe, was a necessary action to protect staff and service users, who are almost exclusively elderly and/or vulnerable, during the peak period of the virus. That phase has now passed, thankfully, and changed government guidelines – and the reopening of non-essential shops – now allow more scope for flexible transport and ‘accessibility providers’ to gradually reintroduce services.

“By restarting our FlexiLink and Shopmobility services, we can begin to reduce the loss of independence for some elderly/vulnerable residents with only those classed as extremely vulnerable expected to remain ‘shielding’ and advised not to travel, when not essential.”

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