Highland Home Carers
"The bikes have made them feel valued and have made them healthier"
Employing over 500 people, Highland Home Carers (HHC) is the biggest homecare provider in Scotland and the largest non-state employer in the Highlands. Carers provide vital services to older and disabled people, from complex care to help with day-to-day living, as well as a familiar and friendly face. However, transport challenges such as not being able to afford a car, inadequate public transport services and difficulty finding parking spaces mean their job can be made even more difficult, with carers rushing between visits.
Before engaging with the Cycling Friendly programme, HHC didn’t have a policy on carers using bikes to deliver home care, and, apart from a bike loan scheme, very little support was available to people who cycle.
How the bike has "become a story"
Mick Heath, a retired Major working with Highland Home Carers, local community care trusts and Cairn Medical Practice wanted to introduce the idea of supplying e-bikes to carers as a behaviour change and modal shift opportunity, and applied for the Cycling Friendly Employer development fund in November 2018. Cycling Scotland provided a grant of £8,000 for eight bikes trikes, and folding bikes to be used for home visits by front line service delivery staff.
The eight bikes funded allow staff to travel to home visits in a healthy, sustainable way, avoiding traffic and parking restrictions. The feedback observed from the carers’ managers has been positive, with a visible improvement in health and wellbeing in all staff using them. More remarkably, homecare clients have been cheered up by a carer arriving on a bike: “the bike has become a story”.
One of the healthcare workers describes using the e-bikes for home visits: “[It’s] been over a month now since having the bike and [I] have only had to use the car twice which is brilliant. I think it's great that we have been given the opportunity to use these bikes and I hope more people get involved as it really is enjoyable, makes you feel good, the clients love to see you arrive on the bike and it's one less car on the road so better for our planet.”
Smashing barriers with bikes
Mick believes that the project has torn down barriers to active travel within the organisation: “I think we’ve smashed barriers of conventional thinking that saw most care being delivered by car or on foot. Some carers must be driven to clients by a volunteer as they can’t afford a car and/or can’t drive. The project has proved that bikes are a middle way - with huge benefits. All carers, plus many clients, have been impacted by the introduction of the bikes.
The bikes have made them feel valued and have made them healthier. The spin off on client wellbeing has improved the whole community.”
One of the nurses talked about her high anxiety levels being managed by being on the bike: “cycling helped clear my head and return me to calm state” and an Occupational Therapist who took the bike out on her lunch break said “all my stresses disappeared”.
It hasn’t just been the health and wellbeing of the staff that has been improved by this project. A staff member who has started cycling since the project’s inception has found that with the time savings and convenience of cycling to clients, she has been able to take on an extra client who needs four visits per day, a huge deal for both her and the client.
The project is now being extended and includes nurses, school nurses, GPs and pharmacists: extending out across the whole care community, and Cairn Medical Practice was awarded a Cycling Friendly Employer award in 2018.
Mick says of Cycling Scotland: “Cycling Scotland are brave, innovative, and supportive. They can help you turn ideas into delivery.”