Social enterprise business, Oomph! Wellness, has launched a new £4m 'Out and About' service to offer regular, meaningful excursions for those in care.
The initiative was launched by Oomph! following research which found there were significant barriers to offering trips outside a care home, including funding cuts.
Oomph!’s founder Ben Allen, said: "Care home owners have told me of their dismay for residents who have not been outside for months. We just can’t accept that so many vulnerable people are stuck indoors due to funding cuts and financial pressures.
"The Out and About model takes the expense and hassle of excursion planning and transport purchase as well as leasing away from care providers. We are effectively helping individual homes and groups in an area to club together to make day trips affordable for all whilst each still gets exclusive use of the service for their service users.
"Connecting with meaningful places, passions and communities must not become a luxury for a minority."
Research for Oomph! by consultancy firm Deloitte found that while 55 per cent of for-profit care homes provided a minibus service, either with their own vehicle or one that was hired, the average monthly cost for two trips was around £1,800.
Care homes also found it difficult to find drivers and found planning itineraries and checking destinations for safety and facilities time consuming.
A nationwide roll-out of the scheme, which aims to bring a regular, rich programme of outings to care homes is planned for March.
The service, which will operate 110 minibuses by summer 2018, will offer up to six trips per month for a flat fee beginning at £160 per excursion.
Trips will be led by a trained Oomph! representative who will drive the bus, support staff in transporting residents and create the Oomph! atmosphere.
Outings are agreed with individual homes and personalised to reflect the interests and needs of residents, as well as staffing ratios.
Aside from the costs of owning or leasing and staffing a minibus, the service offers training and support in organising and preparing an excursion, finding the right location, trip activities and combating residents’ fears of leaving the safety of their care home.
Along with The Care and Wellbeing Fund and Nesta Impact Investment, Mike Parsons, founder of Barchester Homes and chair of Oomph! has invested over £1m into the business, with around £300,000 of his own money.
"This is a no brainer for care services," he said. "Out and About excursions will significantly enhance the offering of providers currently unable to afford regular day trips and provide a much savvier option for those burdened with the costs and logistical issues involved in running their own outings."
With more than a quarter of a million people aged 65 and over living in a care home, studies show the importance of residents engaging in outdoor activities to improve their health and wellbeing.
The Mental Wellbeing of Older People in Care Homes standard, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), reveals that social activities are now a factor the Care Quality Commission (CQC) considers when rating care homes.
Christine Asbury, chief executive of WCS Care which runs 12 care homes across Warwickshire and one of the first providers to sign up to Out and About, said: "Residents should do what they’ve always done – as well as try new opportunities should they wish – and staying connected to their local community plays an important part in that.
"With support from Oomph! we’re able to enhance our existing approach to activities and offer even more trips that are tailored to people’s individual needs."
Oomph! piloted their new service with several homes and care groups in Hampshire and Surrey.
Attending a recent trip to Brooklands Museum of motoring and aviation was 94-year-old, ex Autocar journalist Martin, who first visited the venue as a child and then as a professional writer.
"Motoring and writing about cars has been my life and I think the highlight of my visit to Brooklands has to be the huge Napier racing car," he said. "I haven't actually written anything for a long time so when this opportunity came up to start again, it was wonderful."
According to Debbie Bailey, activities leader at Priory Court, where Martin lives, believed the trip "re-ignited his passion for motoring and gave him the passion to start writing again."
She added: "This isn’t only about a change of scenery, but giving residents a renewed zest for life."
Oomph! work with care groups, local authorities and community support organisations across the UK, delivering around 38,000 exercise classes each year.