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Three years after the launch of the transport project for seniors in Enschede, the future of the service is in doubt.

In Enschede, a unique transport service for seniors, known as Automaatje, is in danger of disappearing. This project, which started with great enthusiasm in 2019, is an initiative of the ANWB in which volunteers with their own cars help less mobile residents. They provide an essential service by transporting these people to, for example, doctor's appointments or family functions. In contrast to other municipalities, where the service runs entirely on volunteers, the municipality of Enschede decided three years ago to financially support the project due to the high demand and the desire for a more professional approach.

Now, after three years, Automaatje is at a crossroads. The subsidy period is ending and so far no decision has been made to extend it. This decision, or lack thereof, comes from the Enschede council, which explains in a letter to the city council that despite the social value of the project - such as combating loneliness and supporting care for the elderly - the financial benefits are difficult to weigh. are against the costs. Particularly because the desired effect, a reduced reliance on the also subsidized Regiotaxi, has not been achieved.

Welfare organization Alifa, which is responsible for the implementation of Automaatje in Enschede, points out the important social component of the project. In this way, it contributed to maintaining social contacts and enabled the elderly to participate in social life. According to an Alifa spokesperson, the subsidy made it possible to provide approximately 100 rides a month with 1000 drivers, coordinated by eight ride brokers. These figures underline the great need for and success of the project.

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transport for the elderly

In a letter to the council, the Enschede council recognizes the social value of Automaatje, including its contribution to the fight against loneliness and support for care for the elderly.

The city council of Enschede has letter to the city council emphasizes that the demand for the Regiotaxi, a subsidized transport service for the elderly and less mobile citizens, has only grown in the past year. This facility, similar to the Automaatje project in its aim to provide mobility solutions to vulnerable groups within the community, is also supported with public funds. 

"Although AutoMaatje did not meet the expectations of the pilot, AutoMaatje does have a social value, namely care support and combating loneliness among residents. However, the social value is difficult to capitalize on in relation to the additional costs that arise. AutoMaatje has a value, but does not provide any financial savings on the Wmo."

The decision not to extend the subsidy has led to disappointment at Alifa, which states that the municipality has not sufficiently taken into account the social value of Automaatje. The organization has been in discussions with the municipality for two years in the hope of structural financing, but these discussions have so far not yielded the desired results.

The issue has been taken up by local politicians; the SP has put the council's letter on the agenda for the upcoming council meeting, where Alifa plans to speak. This moment could be crucial for the future of Automaatje in Enschede. In view of these developments, Enschede is faced with an important decision: does it recognize the value of Automaatje enough to look for new financing options, or does it abandon a project that has both social and offers practical support to the elderly disappear?

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