WALES’ new commissioner for older people has praised community-run transport groups for helping the elderly to stay healthy and make friends.

Helena Herklots CBE, the new Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, recently spent a day visiting passengers on the Green Dragon dial-a-ride service in Haverfordwest.

“It was a pleasure to spend my second day as commissioner in Pembrokeshire, to hear directly from older people about how they use the Green Dragon services and the positive difference it makes to their lives,” said Ms Herklots.

“This hugely valued service not only helps to older people across the county to maintain their health, well-being and independence, but also allows them to meet new people and form new social relationships.

“Services like Green Dragon demonstrate why community transport is so important to older people across Wales.”

The commissioner rode Green Dragon’s Town Rider service, meeting older people and talking with them about the difference that easily accessible transport makes to their lives.

The Green Dragon bus helps people access medical appointments, community services, social clubs and shops.

The service was established in 2002 and carries around 300 passengers every week.

During the visit the commissioner met with the Pembrokeshire Association of Community Transport Organisations (PACTO) at County Hall to find out more about the services they support and the challenges being faced by community transport providers.

Debbie Johnson of PACTO said: “We are proud of the dedicated volunteers, drivers, bus buddies and community transport services we have in Pembrokeshire, and it was great to see the Commissioner taking the time to visit our services and understand the pressure we face as she takes on this new role.”

Earlier this year, there were worries community transport operators could face unmanageable increased running costs due to proposals from the Department for Transport.

The DfT, which held a consultation on the plans, has assured community transport groups they do not need to worry and are backing away from the changes.

Helena Herklots CBE took up her role as Older People’s Commissioner in August, taking over the £90,000-a-year post from Sarah Rochira.

Ms Herklots has more than 30 years’ experience working in the charity sector, and was the chief executive of Carers UK before taking up the new role.