The Drive to Change | The Salvation Army

The Drive to Change

Operating in Christchurch, Rangiora, Ashburton, Greymouth and Westport, the Driver Mentor Programme is empowering people one licence at a time.

New Zealand has a three-step driver licencing system with people moving from learners, through to restricted, which they must hold for six months before they sit their full licence.

Most people coming into the driver mentor programme hold their learner licence, and the programme aims to have them ready to pass their restricted licence in 12 weeks, although many are supported for longer and some return to practise for their full licence.

Each learner receives expert tuition from our driving instructors and are also matched with a volunteer driver mentor who takes the learner out twice a week to hone their skills and build their confidence. It’s this combination which leads to such a high success rate as it allows learners to truly build their confidence.

‘Most of our learner base are from low socio-economic backgrounds,’ says operations advisor William Hope. ‘They’re people who face significant barriers to getting their licence. Some parents may have high anxiety and just won't let the learner drive their car. A lot of our learners don't have access to a vehicle or someone to support them. We also have clients who will be quite proficient at driving but have financial issues. For example, they've never had a warranted car, they can't afford the licence fee, or they've failed a couple of times before.’

Brydee came to the team in Christchurch needing to break down the barriers to getting a driver licence. Brydee was unemployed and feeling 'poor and in the lower class', while experiencing mental health issues and high anxiety. In addition, Brydee was desperate to get her licence so she could help support her mother in caring for her brother with a disability.

Brydee was paired with volunteer driver mentor Bob Arthurs, and received the guidance and encouragement needed to overcome her obstacles, 'Bob is fantastic, he was patient and understanding and kind, there was no judgement,' says Brydee.

With Bob's unwavering support and the professional tuition from one of our driving instructors, Brydee had the skills to be a safe driver and pass her test.

Brydee's success in obtaining her licence led to immediate positive changes,

'My life has completely changed since doing the programme. I got a job three days after passing my licence and I wouldn't have got the job if it wasn't for my licence. Having the independence to be a normal 22-year-old, I can't even describe how amazing it's been.'

Over on the West Coast in Greymouth, where there is no public transport, having a driver licence is even more of a necessity. Referrals to the programme come from MSD, the police, agencies that help people into work and word of mouth. 

Programmes coordinator Luke Wilson delights in seeing the change in people’s lives through the programme.

‘At the end of the day, it's seeing the growth in people and helping them build confidence and be safer on the roads. I've had people that have come through the programme that have been on a benefit. They get their restricted licence and I see them out and about; they've got a job now and they walk past and they're smiling.’