• Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 24 April

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    • Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 24 April
    • 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  

    To frame the drop-in session for this week, we sent the following to members:

    The focus of the next session is ‘the new normal’, looking ahead to future challenges and opportunities facing the sector. We’ll be talking about the changing landscape, passenger confidence, retaining and supporting new volunteers, changing passenger demand and continuing some of the additional services that CTs have started to deliver over the last month.

    What we talked about

    For this session, we were joined by five CTA members and began by having a quick catch up on where community transport providers are finding themselves and any concerns that are front of mind. The conversation started with funding, and we heard from some of the members on the call that they’re being supported by local authority partners to continue to receive payments for school contracts and that one local authority was able to turn around a Bus Services Operators Grant (BSOG) in just one week from claim to remittance. When we think about ‘the new normal’, I would imagine that a lot of our members would be very happy to see their funding claims turned around that quickly in the future!

    PPE was very high on people’s lists, particularly when it comes to transporting vulnerable people. We heard that Kent County Council have been setting a really good example by clearly communicating what PPE is expected and directly providing it to transport partners. Others had found their local authorities less sure about what PPE was needed. CTA has previously shared the Government’s guidance on PPE which, whilst aimed mostly at medical professionals, could be useful to read for those working in a transport context. It would be beneficial however for transport providers working in close quarters with passengers to have greater clarity on what PPE they should be using. 

    Vehicle cleaning, maintenance, MOTs and servicing were also hot topics on Friday, with a discussion on how operators can maintain high standards of cleanliness and safe operation when resources are limited, and many garages are closed. You can view guidance from the Office of the Traffic Commissioner here  on what to do if you can’t get into your usual garage for regularly scheduled checks. While some vehicles are off the road for the time being, those that are being used must be checked before every use, with time allocated for ensuring cleanliness between journeys and at the end of the shift. The group discussed the best practice guidelines and how to follow a sensible risk management approach which safeguards drivers, passengers and passenger assistants. If  members have any resources or posters they’re using to help their staff/volunteers keep vehicles clean, we would love to feature them – please send them to advice@ctauk.org.

    Looking to the future

    Moving on from current concerns, we then started to talk about what the future looks like for CT. With people re-evaluating what is important, do we see the transport landscape changing, and what can we do to support members in that change? We have seen that many services like prescription collection which are new to CT have been very popular, helping members to reach out and support a wider group in their local communities. Jenny from Green Community Travel talked about the work that has been done by their partner supermarket, Morrisons, where staff have been picking shopping and bagging it before the store opens to help people get the supplies they need without affecting customers who are still able to visit the store – this is unlikely to continue in the long term, but potentially some form of shopping service for those with very restricted mobility could be a popular option. 

    One positive theme that emerged was the increase in new volunteers getting involved in CT. Where some people are finding they have more time on their hands, they are choosing to get involved with the work our members are doing to support their local communities. This offers them the opportunity to see what volunteering with a CT could offer them in the future.  Members discussed how this is an angle that often gets missed, as the focus tends to be on what you can offer as a volunteer. Getting involved with helping others can be so enjoyable and give an added dimension to your quality of life, as many long-standing CT volunteers can attest! 

    Another topic we discussed is the support and recognition that people are giving to community transport during this time. The speed with which so many of our members have been able to adapt to this crisis and offer new services, alongside their proactive planning week to week, have meant that CTs have been involved in delivering PPE, hot and cold meals, telephone befriending services, pharmacy supplies and medical equipment. In the past, some of our members reported difficulties in demonstrating the value in community transport to their local partners, wheres the true value in a flexible, responsive and dynamic community-led service is clearer now than ever.

    Finally, I asked attendees to tell us how they would like CTA to support them as they begin to think about their exit strategy. This is a very big question for us as an organisation, and we are keen to ensure that our members’ voices are a key driver in steering us forward. We discussed what members are thinking about as they develop their strategies for coping post lockdown.

    Members on the call raised with us:

    • The need to get a better balance between community work and new ways to develop additional income.
    • Ensuring that CTs are heard as part of the conversation when the UK and devolved governments are planning for the future, not just the big public transport providers.
    • Working to ensure that CT staff are given access to COVID 19 testing, even if they may not be showing symptoms.
    • Making connections with organisations nationally who may be able to provide local support.

    For as long as this crisis lasts, and beyond, CTA will be working with our members to make sure they’re in the best possible position to reconnect their communities when we come out the other side.  We are hugely grateful to everyone who has contacted us so far, either to ask questions or to help in sharing your stories. Please do get in touch if you would like to get involved in this conversation and help us to shape how CTA supports the sector both now and in the future.  

    Our next call

    The next drop-in will be on Friday 01 May, from 11am – 12pm. If you would like to join, please email advice@ctauk.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. 

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