Community Transport – Help Unlock its full Potential
by Noeleen Lynch
Director for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland goes to the polls on May 5th to choose 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) across 18 constituencies. This is a key opportunity with the upcoming election to review, renew and strengthen the important relationship that Community Transport has with our elected representatives, potential government ministers and government departments.
Department for Infrastructure (DFI) is a key partner for the Community Transport sector in Northern Ireland as most Community Transport operators, receive critical financial support through government grants. These grants come from the Rural Transport Fund (RTF) and The Transport Programme for People with Disabilities (TPPD) both administered by DFI. RTF primary objective is to give people in rural areas improved access to work, education, healthcare, shopping, and recreational activities and by so doing assists in reducing their social isolation. This is achieved through the Rural Community Transport Partnerships (RCTPs) ‘Dial a Lift’ scheme and the service is predominately used by the elderly and people with disabilities. TPPD funds Disability Action Transport Scheme (DATS) who provide a specialised transport service for people living in towns or cities who find it difficult to use public transport.
In partnership with our members across Northern Ireland, we have developed CTA’s manifesto for NI’s Assembly Elections: Community Transport – Help unlock its full potential
Our manifesto emphasises the Community Transport sector’s commitment to accessible, inclusive, and sustainable travel, it explains how we can support the reduction of inequalities and contribute to the decrease of carbon emissions. There is an opportunity through Community Transport to tackle some key political and societal challenges and through proper sustainable investment into the sector, there will be far-reaching and positive returns.
We are calling on all Assembly candidates and their parties to commit to supporting the following asks:
Support Sustainable and Multi-Year Funding: Year on year there has been a reduction in the funding which has been allocated to the sector. With an aging population the demand for Community Transport services is increasing and funding to match that demand is needed. The sector needs adequate, long term, multi-year funding to be able to continue delivering its services and protect its long-term future. CTs (COMMUNITY TRANSPORT) are dealing with exponential rises in fuel costs with petrol/ diesel being one of their biggest expenses. This increase on top of a reduction in funding would impact on the services operators are able to deliver if not addressed. On the current yearly funding model, it is challenging for operators to develop, plan and thrive for the future of their operation – multi-year funding would allow this to be achieved.
Collaborate with Community Transport to deliver Net Zero: There is a real opportunity here to leverage Community Transport potential as a modal-shift model to reduce carbon emissions. Transport is the second largest carbon emitter in NI (Northern Ireland) accounting for 20% of carbon output. At a time when our public transport sector has put 1,000s of rural services on risk of being cut, Community Transport offers a tangible way to mitigate these cuts whilst reducing carbon-emissions. MLA’s and Ministers must see CT’s as potential partners to reduce these emissions and reduce the risk of social isolation and loneliness amongst the most vulnerable and cut off communities. If the legislation for Section 22 Permits was introduced in Northern Ireland, this would allow Community Transport operators to run community bus services on a not-for-profit basis as an alternative, when bus routes are deemed as not viable and cut by the public transport sector. This would help to meet the social and welfare needs of one or more communities, help them to remain connected and provide an alternative to private car use.
Champion Community Transport’s and Invest in transport to Health and Social Care – CT’s wants to be a helpful partner in the transformation of Health and Social Care services across NI, but to be able to do that we need to ensure we are being included and integrated into the planning and delivery of health-related transport services. Year on year we see the demand on health-related services grow, without any additional funding for these requests. CT wants to work with the Dept of Health and the H&SC Trusts to deliver a successful transport to health service.
Address poverty and preventing loneliness and isolation – CT, whether located within urban or rural settings is a key enabler in terms of addressing poverty, social exclusion, and vulnerability. Each day it engages with the most marginalised and vulnerable within our communities right across NI. Issues of ‘Transport Poverty’ and ‘Poor Accessibility’ contribute immensely to the lived experience of the many individuals and communities who find themselves left behind or trapped. Appropriate, accessible, and affordable transport is vital to helping these individuals to live, to gain agency and independence and to access the many interventions and services which are vital in supporting individual needs. Therefore, we need a properly funded sector which is not just surviving but thriving.
Today, we are launching a campaign to engage and influence as many candidates, policy makers and political parties as possible. We are asking them to show their support for Community Transport and help us to unlock the Community Transport sector’s full potential. This is our chance to grasp this opportunity to secure a future for the sector which is more than just surviving but thriving.
We cannot do this without you, we are asking CTA members across NI to share our manifesto far and wide to help spread the word. Here is how you can help our campaign:
Contact your local candidates
Please share our manifesto with the candidates standing for election or re-election in your local area. Ask them to ensure their party’s manifesto is committed to working with Community Transport and giving our sector the support, it needs – and deserves.
Share with your network / community
Please share our manifesto with your members, staff and volunteers, partners, funders, stakeholders, and board-members. Let them know what we’re calling for and give them a chance to add their voice to our campaign.
Show your support on social media
Please show your support for our manifesto on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media channels to let your candidates and other voters know that community transport matters to you. Ask them to like/ retweet their support. For example:
I am asking my local MLAs elected on May 5th to support #CommunityTransport to help #ruralcommunities #stayconnected, tackle inequality and deliver #reducedcarbonemissions. Will you support Community Transport and help unlock its full potential? #AE22
Attend your local hustings
Attending a hustings event – whether online or in-person, is a fantastic way to interact with your local candidate and learn more about what they stand for. Ask them a question about local transport needs, tell them how community transport can help and let them know about our manifesto.
If you’ve any questions about our manifesto, or any idea for our campaign ahead of the #AE22 election, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via Noeleen@ctauk.org
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