Published: 15:18, 01 June 2020
| Updated: 15:20, 01 June 2020
A driving school is offering free driving lessons to key workers - to thank them for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Community Driving School CIC (CDS) has partnered with businesses in Thanet to give care workers the "life-changing" opportunity to learn to drive.
Based in Herne Bay, CDS is the UK's "first ever not-for-profit driving school", which helps people struggling with mental health or financial difficulties get driving.
Government restrictions during the lockdown mean that only key workers can currently attend driving lessons, in order for them to continue to provide vital services within the community.
John Nicholson, founder and director of CDS, wanted to do something to show his appreciation for staff at Caremark Thanet, and their hard work in helping vulnerable elderly people during the crisis.
He decided to provide the employees with free lessons, while Thanet Premier Business Group - a networking group for Thanet-based small business owners - has offered to cover his fuel costs.
Mr Nicholson and the business group also put together a Covid-19 risk assessment to protect the care worker and the driving instructor.
They then approached MP Sir Roger Gale, who received confirmation from the government that the plans to provide lessons could go ahead safely.
Garry Costain, of Caremark says the lessons will "change lives".
"The generous initiative from John and the group to provide driving lessons for our non-driving carers is appreciated enormously by me," he said.
"I know a few others have been involved in bringing this about, so from me a very big thank you to you all.
"And from me, on behalf of those who will benefit from the initiative, thank you. This will change lives.”
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, also praised the "unique" project.
"John Nicholson has devised a scheme to teach key workers to drive in a way that is as safe as possible," he said.
"His is a genuinely unique project that should enable many doing vital jobs to be able to drive to work and I am very pleased that the Department for Transport has confirmed that this is in order.”
Jenny Sandford, of Sandford Hodges, one of the businesses helping to fund the classes, said: “CDS does not just teach people to drive, but also equips them with life skills and the ability to create a better life.
"To be able to support an organisation that gives so much to the community, and ensure they could deliver their services safely is of paramount importance. Giving key workers the ability to drive allows them to safely commute to their places of work no matter the time of day."
Mr Nicholson says he is also offering key workers a 10% discount on driving lessons "for life".
Praising Thanet Premier Business Group, he said: “Community Driving School CIC is incredibly proud to belong to such a fantastic and community-minded group of businesses and they all deserve recognition. Without the support of so many small businesses and the people involved we would have not been able to do this.
"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our MP for his support and encouragement. Everybody involved in this initiative believes in community first and I for one want to say thank you to all key workers, for whom we at CDS are offering a 10% discount on all driving lessons for life."