Recap: Our first Coronavirus advice drop-in session (20 March 2020)
by Anneessa Mahmood
Director of Member Services
As the situation around COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, develops we want to make sure that our members can access the guidance they need to understand any actions or precautions they might need to take. We’re regularly publishing and updating important guidance for the community transport sector which you can find on our main guidance page at ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/.
As well as this, you can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information, or have any more questions. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email email@example.com receive a call back for advice and support. Our advice service operates 10:00 am-4:00 pm Monday-Friday.
Our weekly advice service drop-ins
To help support our members throughout this difficult time, we’re also holding an ‘Advice Service Drop-in’ on a weekly basis. This is an opportunity for you to share how you are being affected by the situation, to ask any questions you may have and to talk to other members about how they’re coping. Whilst we may not have all the answers, we will continue to seek clarity and guidance from the relevant bodies on your behalf and inform what we’re doing at CTA to support you.
For those unable to make it, we will be sharing a summary of the points that are discussed during the sessions, including any best-practice or advice from other CTA members that they share during the call.
Last week’s call
On Friday 20 May, we held the first of these sessions and were joined by Nigel Hinch from ABILITY Community Transport (@abilityCIC) who shared how they’ve been responding to current situation. You can find the PowerPoint presentation which Nigel gave below, as well as a ‘plan on a page’ summary document and some of the work he’s been doing recently, which he has kindly allowed us to share.
Nigel told us that around 80% of ABILITY’s registered users are over the age of 70. As is common for community transport users, many of these individuals live alone and are reliant on ABILITY to access the vital services that they need to maintain their independence. Passengers also rely on these journeys to connect with each other and to reduce social isolation. In these unprecedented circumstances, and following government guidance, the majority of their passengers are now having to self-isolate.
Given that ABILITY is reliant on reimbursement from concessionary fare travel, without passengers using their services their income has dramatically decreased. In order to ensure that they can cope with this situation, ABILITY have created a plan to help sustain their services and protect their organisation. This will help to ensure that they can go back to a thriving operation once some sort of normality resumes. As you can see from the presentation below, ABILITY have taken a traffic light approach which means that they will stop, reduce, or start doing certain things. Given the unpredictable situation, they have committed to reviewing this on a weekly basis.
Here are some of the key points which emerged from the conversation with Nigel on Friday:
1. Dealing with financial pressures. Nigel spoke about their experience with contacting their landlord and vehicle financers to discuss a payment holiday. He has also been in contact with the local authority to get clarity on whether any adaptations to their service would be recognised.
We appreciate that one of the main concerns at the moment is being able to deal with dramatically reduced incomes. Last week, CTA wrote to the Department for Transport to call for support to the community transport sector. This includes an extension to concessionary fares, a commitment for Local Authorities to continue paying contracts and a relaxation of the rules around registered services. We also want further clarity about what financial support will be available to the sector from the Government. Some funds have already started to emerge which will provide extra support; we’re working up a fuller document this week.
2. Balancing the immediate needs of your community with the need to think about the future. Nigel spoke about trying to ensure that ABILITY is able to come back and run a full service once life returns to normal. Many of their beneficiaries have been apologetic about not being able to travel and are keen to know if the services will be available in the future.
The nature of community transport means that you are often supporting some of the most vulnerable in society, with operators regularly going above and beyond to ensure that their passengers have everything that they need. Given the challenging situation, it could be easy to take on too much, which may make it more difficult to recover once this crisis has passed. Nigel suggested that it’s important to reflect on your capacity and to work in partnerships where possible. ABILITY have made a commitment to their service users that, when it is safe to do so, the service will resume.
3. Communicating with passengers and external stakeholders. For many of the people that you carry and in a lot of circumstances, the volunteers supporting you, there is a period of isolation ahead. Keeping connected with them as best as you can will help to reduce the risk of loneliness and to keep them engaged with your organisation. ABILITY’s ‘plan on a page’ summary has been sent to their service users with a personalised message as a cover sheet to explain what’s happening Their booking line is also doubling up as a check in and catch up as well as exploring whether drivers could be given the responsibly of ringing up their regular passengers. Trying to maintain the human connections which community transport enables will be invaluable during this time.
4.Keeping your passengers safe. It’s important to make sure that do your best to ensure passengers,drivers and volunteers are aware of the latest government guidance. At ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/ you can find information about cleaning your vehicles as well as links to all the relevant government advice.
Our next drop-in session
The next call will be on Friday 03 April from 11:00 – 12:00.If you want to join the next call please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Covid-19 weekly drop-in’.
You can also email our advice team if you would like any support or if you would like to share with us how COVID-19 is impacting your organisation. And remember you can access all our latest guidance at ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/.
You can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email email@example.com receive a call back.
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