• Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 15 May

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    • Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 15 May
    • by Gemma Lelliott
      Support and Engagement Executive, South Wales

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    As the situation around 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 advice@ctauk.org to receive a call back for advice and support. Our advice service operates 10:00-4:00 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 these conversations will 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  

    We didn’t have a specific topic in mind for our most recent call, so I opened the floor to the group of about 16 members for anyone to pose any questions they might have. This is what we discussed:

    Public Liability

    We chatted about the need for sufficient public liability cover for CTs who provide contracted services to partners such as local authorities. New procurement frameworks have meant that one operator had fallen foul of a pass/fail question on whether the value of their cover was sufficient. Unfortunately, while many small organisations find the cost of this insurance very high, the standard level for public sector contracts does tend to be set at £10 million and without it, operators will not be in a position to bid for these opportunities.


    We then moved on to talk about funding applications. While some pre-coronavirus funding bids have been placed on hold temporarily, members are now starting to see some bids being awarded for coronavirus-specific funding pots. Smaller, local grants seem to be coming through more swiftly than larger bids, and it was good to hear that some operators have been able to use the funding secured to enable them to deliver community support at this difficult time.

    In discussing the furlough support through the UK Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, a significant number of the members on the call have applied for and been successful in securing support for their paid staff. With some variation in how easy the process was to follow, it sounds as though the system has been improved over time to allow for applicants to save progress and return to their applications. Anna Whitty from Ealing CT told us that they have used ACAS advice to draft an agreement between staff and the organisation which made clear how much staff would be paid, how holiday would be handled etc. and this was agreed in writing before staff were furloughed. While there is uncertainty about the changes to the scheme over the summer, it was clear that this support has been hugely beneficial for a lot of our members.

    Physical Distancing

    We had a really interesting discussion about how operators are planning to support passengers to keep their distance from each other as more people start travelling following the change in the UK Government’s guidance. With commercial operators making it clear that the responsibility for physical distancing sits with the passenger, we talked about what this could mean for the CT sector. With some operators having clear guidelines in place about maximum numbers of passenger per vehicle (including doubling the number of vehicles on the route if necessary) and others thinking about PPE for drivers and closing off the front seats to passengers, there was some variety between members’ approaches. Some of the questions we discussed were:

    • Whose responsibility is it to limit passenger numbers on vehicles?
    • Should it be explicitly based on organisational guidelines, or is it up to the passenger to decide if they feel safe to board?
    • How can we protect drivers? And how does this translate to drivers in cars rather than minibuses?
    • If you take a strict approach to limiting capacity – is it financially viable?
    • What happens on a route that runs once a day/once a week, and the bus is already at a socially distanced capacity?

    All the members were clear that their priority is to ensure that driver and passenger safety is maintained and that they are serving their community in the safest way possible. As people begin to move out of lock down, CTs are committed to making sure they’re able to be front and centre in reconnecting their communities.

    Volunteer Safety

    With so many of our members’ volunteers falling into the ‘vulnerable’ category, many stalwart volunteers have been forced to stop driving in their local communities and shield themselves at home. While this has been done to ensure their safety, some are very keen to get back to work and are feeling frustrated that this hasn’t been possible. Pru Burton from Royston & District Community Transport told us that a facebook ‘call to arms’ was answered by 16 new volunteers who now almost all have successfully completed the DBS check process, and Sue Peck from Stockport Car Scheme told us that they have some celebrities driving for them! While stories like this are hugely positive, it is important to stress that many existing volunteers would love to get back behind the wheel and members are trying their best to work out if this can be done safely.

    Some members have invested in protective screens in their vehicles and are implementing risk assessments and level 1 PPE. Others have invested in contactless payment systems, delayed or completely cancelled fares for journeys to remove the risk of transmission via cash payment. Some members however have decided that the risk is still too great and – although they would love to see their volunteers return – they are unwilling to put them at risk at the moment and have decided to ask them to continue to stay away for now.

    Online resources

    Before we ended the call we chatted about some of the platforms that members have been exploring to help them in their work. Spacehive is a crowdfunding platform which has waived their usual fees to help people to raise money. Jon Critoph from Community Action Ledbury mentioned that this could be a way to raise money for a specific goal like fitting screens in minibuses to allow for services to restart. NextDoor is a neighbourhood app which allows you to connect with organisations and individuals living in your location. This could be a useful platform to help members to connect with residents able and willing to volunteer, or even for passengers who are lonely to get in touch with others in their area. If you have any suggestions for other platforms, tools or resources which you are finding useful, we would love to hear from you on advice@ctauk.org.

    Our next call

    For this week’s call (Friday 22 May 11:00 – 12:00) we have a guest speaker, Keith Arrowsmith, a solicitor from Counterculture Partnership LLP to talk about the UK Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. If you’d like to join the call and speak to Keith and other community transport providers about the job retention scheme, or share any other questions you might have, please email advice@ctauk.org  for a link to join the call.

    As ever, you can find our latest coronavirus guidance at  ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/.  and, if you need advice or support on this or anything else, or if you have any ideas for topics you want to be discussed at future drop-ins, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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