June 5, 2013
The campaign to stop waiting
Scotland’s community transport providers are moving fast up the political agenda. Age Scotland’s campaign, Still Waiting, has shone the spotlight on the vital contribution that community transport makes to the lives of many who have become isolated through age, ill health or simply by dint of where they live. The campaign, which is attracting cross-party support from within the Scottish Parliament and from Community Transport Association UK, aims to extend the scope of Scotland’s concessionary travel scheme to include many of our local transport projects.
The bus pass (National Concessionary Travel) scheme has been of huge benefit to older people in Scotland, yet it is only of value where a suitable bus service is available. Where it is not, people who are on low incomes, have mobility difficulties or health conditions – and sometimes all of these – can experience severe isolation and loneliness.
This problem isn’t exclusive to rural areas; a lack of transport options can also blight urban communities, particularly in winter when steeply rising pavements can become iced and dangerous.
Age Scotland’s ‘Still Waiting’ campaign calls on the Scottish Government to adjust the Concessionary Travel Scheme so the bus pass can be used on Community Transport Services. Across Scotland there are worrying signs of commercial bus operators withdrawing from routes on the grounds of cost, cutting off even more older people. Community Transport Services, often run by local charities, are crucial for filling these gaps; from community mini-buses to door-to-door collection and drop off schemes. Yet these are themselves vulnerable to dwindling funding.
By including Community Transport in the bus pass scheme, we can encourage growth in these services. We’re also asking for full reimbursement to them of every fare as Community Transport providers, unlike commercial operators who receive 67% reimbursement, can’t cross-subsidise services from their profits.
In August 2012 social research company The Lines Between was commissioned by Age Scotland to conduct research into community transport. This aimed to identify the role of community transport in sustaining the health and well-being of older people; the current and projected numbers of older people using community transport; and an estimate of savings to the public purse that an extension of the Concessionary Travel Pass to community transport options may result in.