Funding from the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) in Northern Ireland was due to run out at the end of April. DFI had told CTA and providers that in absence of a Stormont budget, Permanent Secretary Julie Harrison has authorised the decision. In the past couple of weeks, CTA, led by Noeleen Lynch, Director for Northern Ireland, was at the forefront of campaigning, along with the Rural Community Transport Partnerships (RCTP’s), lobbying MLA’s and MPs and advocating for the importance of the dial-a-lift service.
In a letter by CTA’s Chief Executive, Dr. Victoria Armstrong, to the DfI Permanent Secretary, Dr Julie Harrison, CTA expressed grave concern about the potentially severe and irreversible damage to disabled and elderly people, along with the loss of jobs in rural areas; the potential loss of livelihoods and lives if funding be reduced or discontinued.
The news of funding extension comes as a relief to the communities that rely on community transport services, especially in rural areas where public transport is limited or non-existent. CTA is certain this is a positive step towards ensuring that community transport continues to serve those who need it the most.
However, we also recognize that this funding is subject to budget approval and that there may be uncertainties surrounding future funding. We, therefore, urge the government to ringfence this funding and ensure that community transport services are protected in the long term. This will provide stability and certainty for both community transport providers and the people they serve.
Community transport plays a vital role in supporting people who are isolated or vulnerable, including the elderly, disabled, and those living in remote areas. Yet, CT services have faced significant challenges in recent years, with funding cuts and the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic affecting their ability to operate effectively.
Furthermore, we believe that community transport services should be given greater recognition and support as they are an essential component of the overall transport network in Northern Ireland. CTA plans to work to ensure that funding in the future in NI is ringfenced and protected and will do this through working with government officials and political representatives to get that security and sustainability that the sector needs.
Watch some of our features on BBC, and ITV and listen to the Nolan Show, highlighting the severe impact on Northern Ireland if funding was discontinued.
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.