On 23rd November the CTA were delighted to welcome Anna Whitty MBE, Chief Executive of ECT Charity to Stirling to meet with members of our Scottish Committee as well as local authority transport officers to hear about the work which ECT Charity has done in measuring the value of community transport.
ECT Charity launched their groundbreaking report Why Community Transport Matters earlier this year. Their work could not have been better timed as a tool to help local community transport operators show the added value they bring to communities across the UK during a time of austerity in public finances.
It was particularly good to have Council officers come along to our meeting. Transport officers often have to battle internally to secure budgets for community transport and with the current climate the case for support needs to be robust. Putting a financial value on the extras which community transport provides, can help transport officers make their case. ECT Charity emphasises how its services prevent the costs which arise from loneliness and isolation and have been able to place a financial value on this.
Transport budgets are generally decreasing at this point in time partly because social services budgets are increasing. Yet the irony is that many social services cannot function without transport. For example, investment can be made in a day care centre but if people can’t get there then the centre is of no use. Ask older people what they need and transport will be at or near the top of the list – yet ask a senior planner of older people’s services in a social services department of a local authority what their priorities are and transport will be near the bottom if it features at all. Social service departments need to work with transport units and share their budgets in order to fully serve those people whom they exist to support. ECT Charity’s work is invaluable in having a mature discussion on transport if silos can be broken down in this way.
One of the main insights I gained from the day was the importance of collecting data. ECT Charity has set up a process of recording the details of their activities and is clear about why they are doing this. Having gathered this data over a long period of time they can prove the value of their service using robust information.
Anna’s visit was a great use of time for both operators and transport officers. As one transport officer at our meeting said afterwards: “For me being relatively new to community transport, yesterday’s session was hugely informative and useful in supporting me to carry out my day to day activities.”