Dozens of Rotorua locals with long-term mental health, physical or intellectual disabilities will now get the chance to gain their driver's licence thanks to a $5000 grant from BayTrust.
The money will be used by Te Aratu Trust to continue running their successful driving programme in 2021, avoiding the need to cut back the professional lessons, vehicle access and free petrol which are offered to those in need each week.
"Getting a driver's licence is a massive achievement for any New Zealander," Te Aratu Trust manager Lindsay Harper said.
"And for people with disabilities it's just that much harder. It's financially impossible really, for somebody on a benefit now to actually go through the process because the costs are so high."
Many of Te Aratu Trust's clients do not have access to a car so the trust runs its own driving programme – providing a free 45 minute lesson once a week for up to 10 different people – to enable them to gain their driver's licence and the freedom that comes with it.
"It's fantastic BayTrust has come on board to support us," Harper said.
"It makes such a big difference in people's lives and it's so worthwhile. I was stressing a little bit about whether we could run a full programme this year or if we would need to cut down a little bit, but the demand's there.
"As soon as somebody passes their license and are out of our programme, somebody else is in it."
Other funding agencies including Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust also contribute towards the trust's driving programme and professional lessons.
"I'm hoping with this extra funding we can now do the full 12 months. It will help pay for all the mileage because we do approximately 180km of driving instruction each week. That's a lot of petrol."
Harper acknowledged that it takes much longer for the trust's clients to pass their license compared to the average New Zealander. But none of them have ever had a car crash.
"Anybody who can pass that test deserves to be able to drive. It's such a hard test."
BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said the ability to drive was a key life skill which could make an enormous difference in people's lives.
"It opens up huge opportunities for employment, social interaction and independent living," he said.
"Te Aratu's driving programme is providing enormous value in Rotorua and we're very pleased to know it will continue this year."
Supporting and promoting inclusivity is a priority funding area for BayTrust as the organisation works to help strengthen Bay of Plenty communities.
BayTrust's purpose is to provide charitable, cultural, philanthropic, recreational, and other benefits to Bay of Plenty communities through accelerating bold meaningful change, assisting local communities and the environment to flourish.
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