Funding of £1m towards replacing vehicles for community transport operators was recently awarded to 29 organisations by the Scottish Government. John MacDonald, from the Community Transport Association (CTA),was involved in the management of the Fund and gives us his take.
Support for transport services for older people was by far the biggest feature in the applications and there was particular demand from day centres for older people. All told there were 130 applications to the Fund and total funding of more than £4m was sought so the funding has only gone part of the way to helping with the problems older people have with transport.
The response to the Government’s Community Transport Vehicle Fund has highlighted the extent of the problem but has not solved it. It’s good news that we’ve been able to get another £1m into the sector, but it only touches the surface of the problems which older people in Scotland face with transport. We had dozens of applications from day centres and other centres for older people. They told us that if they weren’t providing transport then most of their clients would not be able to get to their centres and so the facilities would not be viable. It is fine to have first class day services but if people can’t get to them you have a major problem.
The successful applicants were mainly community transport operators who made wide community use of their vehicles. Though older people are the main users of these services for shopping, getting to NHS appointments, dial a ride, etc., it was unfortunately the case that day centres were not supported through the Fund. Many of these have vehicles which are past their best and have limited lifespans. When it comes to the point where they have to be scrapped, if a replacement vehicle is not in place then this presents a serious issue for the centres.
Community transport has risen up the political agenda over the past year, and Age Scotland’s continuing campaign on this – ‘Still Waiting’ – has played a key role in this. As part of its response to the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee’s inquiry into the future of community transport last year, the Scottish Government committed to carrying out research into the sector and, over the coming months the CTA will be carrying out a lot of this work.
Hopefully, the results of this research coupled with continued pressure will help us find a sustainable future for this vital service which underpins so many of the services in our communities.
Read more about Age Scotland’s Community Transport Campaign: Still Waiting (#still_waiting)