In the life of an adult, holding a valid driver’s licence is considered by many a necessity. However, it comes at a cost that some cannot afford. Inspired by a similar programme during her time at Thames Social Services, Sheryll FitzPatrick, manager of Whitianga Social Services, implemented two years ago a programme in Mercury Bay for people of all ages and backgrounds to gain their licences without being concerned about the expense. “I have witnessed first-hand the difference in people’s lives having a driver’s licence, such as receiving further job opportunities and it being a massive confidence booster,” says Sheryll.
At the moment, there are 51 people who are participating in the Whitianga Social Services programme, ranging from teens who are looking to learn how to drive, to adults who have lost their licence and everyone in between.
The programme covers driving lessons, defensive driving courses, practical and theory tests, and even the re-sit of tests that have been failed, all of which are funded through Whitianga Social Services. “There is no criteria to join,” says Sheryll. “Everyone should be able to learn how to be a safe driver on the road without the expense getting in the way.
Hearing about this incredible opportunity, a local mother introduced her teenage daughter, Jayda Moana-Mason, to Sheryll. Jayda has been a resident in Whitianga for the past three years and is a front-of-house team member at The Lost Spring. She is working towards obtaining her restricted driver’s licence, which she says will help her immensely with her commute to and from work.
Once Jayda signed up to the programme, Sheryll guided her to online study resources, including the Road Code and practice learner’s licence tests. She also assisted Jayda in obtaining a form of acceptable identification, which in this case was a birth certificate, and going along with her to the AA’s monthly visit to St Andrew’s by the Sea Community Church to gain her learner’s licence.
The programme is also paying for Jayda’s driving lessons with Denise Harris of Choice Driver Training.
“At the moment there is quite a queue to take your driver’s licence test,” says Sheryll. “This is the only frustrating thing we are finding at the moment as it holds us up in helping people obtain their licence. I am particularly thrilled to be helping as the programme is useful and necessary for a large array of people. I love it that we can provide a fair chance for everyone of all ages and circumstances to gain their own independence and the freedom that comes with having a driver’s licence.”
Jayda says she’s very thankful to Sheryll for her support on her journey to becoming a safe driver with a driver’s licence. “Sheryll has helped me hugely and continues to, which I really appreciate,” she says. “I am feeling very confident in gaining my licence thanks to the programme. It has made things a lot easier.”
Sheryll says those who are interested in joining the programme should visit the Whitianga Social Services offices in Cook Drive.
Pictured is Sheryll FitzPatrick and Jayda Moana-Mason outside the offices of Whitianga Social Services.