Community transport is a sector that goes above and beyond to serve communities all over the UK. Day in and day out, our members are lifelines for their passengers, connecting them to the people and places they rely on.
But with the vast majority of their usual passengers having to stay home, and with doubt over funding and availability of staff, the sector, like so many others, is going through a difficult and uncertain time.
Yet in the face of this, we’ve seen community transport doing what it does best: stepping up in times of adversity and serving their communities. At CTA, we want to tell the stories of the organisations who, where they can, are reaching out and supporting those in need. Take a look at the story of one of our members below.
CT Passenger Service are the passenger transport arm of Community Transport, an organisation operating across the West Midlands and northeast of England. In the current environment, they’re facing the sorts issues you’d expect: a fall in passenger numbers, from pupils traveling to and from school, to shopper services and group travel, as well as threats to their usual funding streams and a decline in the number of available drivers.
But in the face of these hardships, Community Transport is still continuing to deliver essential services such as vital medical transport. “Transport of renal patients to dialysis clinics has actually increased,” said Jo Beaumont, Chief Executive,“as more journeys are needed to enable only two patients to travel together instead of the usual seven or eight passengers who would normally travel to the same clinic. Services for school children of key workers and those who are vulnerable also remain in place and, in the areas we work,this has sadly meant that there’s not been a significant reduction. And for some schools, rather than transporting young people that are allowed into school to access a lunchtime meal, we’re delivering those to pupils’ homes instead.”
Jo and her colleagues have also been making deliveries of food to vulnerable passengers and are working with their local authority to put in place a more frequent delivery service as well as approaching supermarket chains to offer it further afield.
“Other services that we’re running,” said Jo, “include supplying emergency packages to local authorities who are supporting rough sleepers to access accommodation, and transporting refuse collectors who are unable to travel together in their collection vehicle. We’re also planning services to support journeys for key workers who need to get to work.”
Keeping in contact with isolated passengers is also important, and all staff have been asked to make regular calls to provide social interaction and check on the need for shopping deliveries. “Susan is one of our usual passengers isolating due to underlying health conditions,” said Jo, “and she’s told us that Community Transport’s ongoing contact has given her a connection with the outside world, allowing her to voice her concerns and worries, share what she’s watching on TV and to stay in touch with an organisation she knows, trusts and depends on.”
And they’re not just contacting their regular passengers, having also set up a schedule of contact with their volunteers many of whom are devastated to have to remain at home. “We’ve set up WhatsApp groups to enable staff to stay in touch with volunteers at each site,”said Jo, “building morale and maintaining social interactions.”
“Our current number of drivers is fairly well matched to our reduced services,” Jo told us, “but we’re not sure this correlation will be maintained throughout the current situation, as the nature of driver licensing means that minibus drivers are typically closer to the end of their career than the beginning, meaning they’re more likely to need to self-isolate. Additional health screening and enhanced protective measures are in place as far as possible, however supplies are difficult enough to obtain for front line NHS staff, let alone those in social care and transport.”
Like other providers up and down the UK, Jo’s team are working in difficult and uncertain circumstances. But for as long as they can, and in whatever way they can, it’s clear that Community Transport are stepping up and making a real difference in their community during these difficult times.
If you have a story to tell about the work you’re doing to support your community at the moment, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email email@example.com receive a call back.
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.