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Whether you’re a member of the public, someone who works or volunteers for a not-for-profit community transport provider or users of those services, potential changes to how transport legislation applies could have a huge impact on you and your community. Find out about how you can help protect community transport.
Transport is a lifeline for people of all ages. Being able to get out and about is vital to experiencing the world around us. Unfortunately, private cars and public transport are often not options for those who can’t afford them, have no local bus services, live rurally, or can’t use conventional public transport due to needing extra assistance or support.
Thousands of charities and third sector organisations across the UK currently run not-for-profit transport on a daily basis that exists to make sure everyone can get out and about, no matter what their circumstances or needs.
From schools to churches, from care homes to your local dial-a-ride, every day, huge numbers of people get in their minibuses and cars to help members of our communities get to where they need to be.
Collectively, we refer to these not-for-profit transport services as ‘community transport’ as they are run by and for our communities, fulfilling a social purpose and providing community benefit.
However, these services are under threat.
Why are these services under threat?
Currently, these organisations are able to use what’s called section 19 or section 22 permits rather than having to apply for a commercial operator’s licence, because they’re not making a profit from their transport services, and they can use training such as the Minibus Drivers’ Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) to ensure their transport services are safe and legal.
This way of operating has been supported in legislation and encouraged by successive governments for nearly 30 years in order to ensure that people in our communities can still get out and about when public transport can’t support them.
Now, following a challenge from a small group of commercial bus operators, the Department for Transport has proposed changes to the way that these not-for-profit transport operators should run their services. The changes are an attempt to clarify how European Union regulations regarding transport operation should apply. The Department set these changes out in guidance released in February.
The DfT’s proposed guidance will mean that an estimated:
28% of all organisations running not-for-profit community transport will need a commercial operator’s licence to continue running their services.
84% of all organisations running not-for-profit transport will have to ensure their staff and volunteers obtain a commercial minibus driving qualification if they want to continue to drive their vehicles.
95% of all organisations running not-for-profit transport will be affected by these changes and required to spend large amounts of money to become compliant.
This means that this will affect traditional community transport providers as well as not-for-profit organisations that provide transport services such as churches, schools, youth groups, and charities such as the Scouts, Age UK, Mind or Scope.
If the proposed guidance stands, the total estimated impact on organisations will be £399 million. For individual organisations the cost is dependent on their size and level of development, but could be anything from £10,000 up to figures of well over a million, in order to make sure they are compliant.
This cost will likely be too much, or not viable, for many of these not-for-profit organisations, meaning that they will no longer be able to afford to run their transport services, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable people without the transport they rely on.
We do not believe this was the intention of the Department for Transport, but it will be the outcome if they do not reconsider their guidance now the costs and consequences of their planned reforms are becoming clearer.
Why won’t the proposed guidance work?
The Department for Transport initiated these reforms in order to change the way a small number of community transport operators were regulated when bidding for competitively tendered contracts. This was because the act of bidding for competitive contracts was seen to be ‘commercial’.
Unfortunately, the Department’s guidance and issued statements are not clear on which organisations would be affected by the different regulations, but instead suggests that any organisation fitting into the below definitions is acting as a commercial transport operator:
Any organisation who delivers transport as their main function or primary purpose, if:
– They cannot prove that no commercial organisation wishes to deliver that service
– Their services are not free or less than 89% of the cost of delivering that service
– They are delivering an occasional service with a paid driver
– They are hiring out their vehicle/s with no driver included
– Any organisation with paid employees who drive a minibus (even if driving is a small or occasional part of their job).
This impact of the loss of these services will not be felt by the Department for Transport, it will be felt by the people who have come together to help their community through transport, by the older people and people with disabilities who can no longer access their community because these services don’t exist, by the youth groups and care homes who can no longer provide transport for trips and services, and by our local authorities who will have to make up for these losses, because people are left isolated and lonely.
We do not believe this needs to be the case. We believe that there are alternative ways forward.
In February, the Department for Transport launched a consultation on their guidance.
As part of this, we’re asking them to reconsider their proposed changes and we want you to join us by:
1) Speaking to your Member of Parliament.
Get in touch with your MP to make sure they know about the impact this could have on your local community. It’s vital that MPs hold the Department for Transport to account and urge them to take a step back and reconsider these changes.
You can write your own letter or use one of our templates below:
You can sign up to our Thunderclap where Twitter and Facebook users can sign up to send out the same message, on the same day, at the same time, to draw attention to a campaign on social media. You can also use the hashtag #WithoutCT throughout the consultation process. Click here to find out more and signup.
3) Make your own case study
Using our case study template, you can input your organisation’s information to help you demonstrate the impact on the services you operate and the cost to your organisation. You can then attach this when you write to your MP and as part of your own consultation response. Click here to download our case study template.
Without Community Transport, tens of thousands of people will see themselves unable to access the transport they rely on every day. The Department for Transport needs to stop and think about the huge impact on these people if they press ahead with these changes.
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.