Supporting National and Local Policy Priorities
Community transport is a form of Demand Responsive Transport which “is about providing flexible and accessible community-led solutions in response to unmet local transport needs, and which is often aimed at the most vulnerable and isolated individuals in the community.” (Community Transport Association).
The services that HcL provide, support people across the Lothians with mobility challenges to maintain independence, stay in their own home longer, to get out and about and access local facilities and amenities. Dial-A-Ride and Dial-A-Bus help reduce social isolation for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. These services directly support both national and local objectives.
The National Context:
- Scottish Government Age, Home and Community 2011 Strategy was updated in 2018 with a clear key priority “We want older people in Scotland to enjoy full and positive lives in homes that meet their needs.” One of the 3 aims underpinning this strategy is Right Support: “We want to ensure that all older people in Scotland have the support they need to enjoy full and positive lives at home or in a homely setting”. Included within this aim: “Accessible transport is vital to communities so that people can stay socially active, particularly for those in rural areas or later in life.”
- Current National Health and Wellbeing Outcomes include the following: “People are able to look after and improve their own health and wellbeing and live in good health for longer.” And “People, including those with disabilities or long term conditions, or who are frail, are able to live, as far as reasonably practicable, independently and at home or in a homely setting in their community.”
- The Scottish Government’s first national strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness and build stronger social connections (2018). Priority 4 – Support an infrastructure that fosters connections, which includes transport: “Accessible transport is vital to people being able to meet face-to-face and stay socially active, particularly for those in rural areas or later in life.”
- 2020 National Transport Strategy vision: “We will have a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system, helping deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for communities, businesses and visitors.” The four priorities include ‘Reducing inequalities’ and ‘Improves our health and wellbeing’.
Scotland’s population is ageing. In 2018, 455,000 people in Scotland were aged 75 or over. By 2043, this figure is projected to grow to 776,000, an increase of just over 70%.
Many people with disabilities feel trapped due to the lack of accessible transport, particularly in remote and rural areas. There is increasing recognition of social isolation and loneliness as major and national public health issues that can have significant impacts on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Transport clearly has a role to play in reducing levels of social isolation. Evidence suggests that 98% of disabled people have experienced a problem either booking or getting transport to medical and healthcare appointments.
Affordability is also an issue for disabled people. While there is a National Concessionary Travel Scheme for those eligible, disabled people are more likely to experience affordability barriers to transport relative to people without disabilities. A lower proportion of disabled people are in employment compared to those who are not disabled, and so are more likely to be affected by poverty. These barriers lead to lower levels of travel amongst disabled people and contribute to a range of impacts.
The impact of the Covid pandemic has further exasperated these issues.
- Edinburgh Public and Accessible Transport Action Plan 2013-2020: The overall aim is to achieve: “an integrated, safe, modern, sustainable, top quality public transport system, providing for all major medium and longer distance movement to, from and around Edinburgh; accessible to all”. One of the objectives to meet this aim is “high-quality, cost effective Community and Accessible Transport”
- West Lothian Community Planning Partnership - Achieving Positive Outcomes. One objective is “Older people are able to live independently in the community with an improved quality of life”. People in West Lothian are living longer. Whilst this is good news, it provides challenges in terms of an ageing population and the increasing incidence of frailty, dementia and other long term conditions. Supported door-through-door transport supports older people living in their community for longer.
- Midlothian Transport Strategy: “Community transport services are a vital service to people with mobility difficulties and provide not only a transport service, but also increased opportunities for social interaction and inclusion. Community transport services are currently well used in Midlothian, however there are opportunities to increase awareness of them and expand on the services provided.”
- East Lothian Council Local Transport Strategy 2018-24: One of its seven objectives: “To maximise accessibility for all and reduce social exclusion”
- The Lothian Joint Physical and Complex Disability Strategy recognises that disabled people require an accessible environment. Transport recommendations include:
- The need for accessible, flexible and affordable public transport
- The provision of transport for the purposes of care
- The provision of transport for the purposes of employment and lifelong learning
- Ensure that people know what is available and how to access it.
- The SEStran Regional Transport Strategy 2008 – 2023 recognises the invaluable role the community transport sector plays in meeting the transport needs of many (both urban and rural, and including the increasing numbers of elderly) in the SEStran area including those who cannot use conventional public transport and who need a fully accessible door-to-door service (in both urban and rural areas).
It is clear that HcL services support all these objectives and there is the demand for more of our services, for continuing to raise profile of our services so that more people know of Dial-A-Ride and Dial-A-Bus, and that the demand is set to increase. Our strategy for the next 5 years must focus on how we support our stakeholders meet this need and demand.