“So you’re going to drive a bus?” Explaining my new job to loved ones is proving slightly tricky. How do you fit an integral social benefit, a volunteering opportunity for hundreds and a lifeline for thousands into one neat sentence? The challenge is still eluding me!
What I can say is that I’m the new Support and Engagement Executive in Scotland. I’m here to help members make the most of their relationship with the Community Transport Association, champion their voice and connect them with other people working in community transport and across the transport sector.
Previously, I worked as the Operations Manager for a children’s charity that seeks to create social change, so I know how one social activity can effect change in a whole community. Community transport is crucial, not just getting people from A to B, but providing interaction, neighbourliness and accessibility along the way. But it’s also a sector in a period of change.
This became even clearer to me when I made my first member visit to the South Edinburgh Amenities Group (SEAG). I was a bit nervous, heading off to a part of the city that was new to me. I’d printed out lists of pertinent questions to ask and brought more pens than I could need in a week. I was worried that I might be met with lots of questions I didn’t have answers for yet! Instead, I was met with a smile, a cup of coffee and several biscuits!
Situated near the outskirts of the city, SEAG caters for 138 groups in the Lothian region, making 68,000 journeys each year. With 12 passengers on an average journey, that means nearly a million individual opportunities that users otherwise wouldn’t have. This includes lunch clubs, meetings of faith groups, library expeditions and more.
Speaking to Alistair, the transport manager at SEAG, there was one word that jumped to mind: ‘determination’. Alistair is determined to keep community at the forefront of everything he and SEAG do. He’s determined to celebrate and represent community transport in a society that doesn’t always give it enough recognition. He’s determined to get the most from the resources available to SEAG and to do his best for drivers and passengers.
Alistair was keen to hear how other community transport providers work, how they’re tackling challenges on a local and national level and wanted to make more connections and share best practice. “We need each other” he said, “if we don’t work together, we won’t get listened to.” Part of this, for him, is being part of the Edinburgh Community Transport Operator Group. Together with other community transport providers, Alistair shares his best practice and formulates joint responses to local and national issues. He feels that speaking with a united voice is always more effective and sees SEAG’s membership of CTA as part of this.
I saw another example of CTs working together at a recent CTA Scottish Committee meeting. Robust and passionate views were exchanged about the current uncertainty around section 19 and 22 permits; we discussed CTA’s PCV-D1 training project as well as the current environment in which members are delivering their services. What has amazed me about every member I’ve spoken to is that, even in the current climate, their first thought is always the people and communities they serve.
I’m still new to CTA but I’ve recently taken on responsibility for our PCV-D1 training project and will be visiting more members and offering support via phone calls and emails. We don’t have a magic wand, or access to big piles of cash, but I’m ready to help members make full use of CTA’s support and to be a proud ambassador for their untiring hard work.
So no, whatever my family and friends might think, I’m not driving a bus, or sharing a community car, or organising a wheels to work or Dial-a-Ride scheme! But if you do any of these things, I want to champion and support the work you’re doing. You can get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Transport Association UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Cardiff no. 1985361 Registered office: 12 Hilton Street M1 1JF. Registered as a charity in England and Wales no. 1002222. Charity Registered in Scotland No. SC038518.