A COMMUNITY transport team in Cheshire is celebrating after its parent charity won a major national award for the work it does providing a transport lifeline to local people.

The community transport services delivered by ECT in Cheshire from its depot in Ellesmere Port helped the organisation scoop the ‘NatWest Social Enterprise 100 Impact Champion’ award at a ceremony in central London.

Judges praised the charity for its dedication and professionalism in helping thousands of people who are unable to access mainstream transport.

Accepting the award, chief executive Anna Whitty told an audience of nearly 300 charity and social enterprise leaders that for too long, community transport had been an “unsung hero”.

Yet the services it provided made a huge difference to people’s everyday lives – whether it involved a simple trip to the shops, taking them for a health check-up, or a day out with a group of friends.

Anna also described how loneliness and isolation among elderly people had become a major issue, and one that community transport was able to help solve. She asked: “Do you know that some people stay in their homes without talking to anyone all week?”

The organisation was given particular praise by the judges for developing a pioneering toolkit that it uses to measure and demonstrate the ‘social value’ that it provides through its services. Judges were also impressed at how the charity had shared its toolkit widely with other community transport organisations around the UK.

Patrick O’Keeffe, the charity’s chair, applauded the commitment of the team and CEO – who was also a finalist in the awards’ Leadership category.

He said: “The team work hard on a daily basis to bring people who are isolated and on their own back into the community. I’m really delighted that their dedication has been recognised with this national award.”

Run by Pioneers Post magazine in partnership with NatWest bank, the annual awards programme recognised the top 100 social enterprises in the UK, and among them, seven award winners across a range of categories.

The Impact Award recognises enterprises that “take considerable measures to demonstrate and communicate the social or environmental impact of their business, using this to improve their performance and win new business”.

Simon Jacobs, chief administrative officer at NatWest, who hosted the awards evening, said: “We are once again proud to support the NatWest SE100, recognising and celebrating the most inspiring social enterprises in the UK, all of whom, in various ways, support the communities in which we live and work.

"Tonight’s winners show that having purpose at the core of your organisation can drive even greater success. Congratulations to all, from NatWest.”