Door-to-door transport has been a Cinderella service in London for far too long. Although there are a range of different services on offer and significant sums of money are spent on them, service users don’t have the reliable, joined-up, personal service they have a right to expect. As Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee I am conducting an investigation into door-to-door transport, focusing in particular on the idea of introducing personal budgets for service users.
The London Assembly holds the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) to account by examining decisions and actions in public to ensure promises to Londoners are delivered. The Transport Committee engages with the travelling public in London and examines all aspects of the capital’s transport system in order to press for improvements.
Door-to-door services are an essential mode of travel that allow people to get on with day to day activities when they would otherwise be stuck at home. The different types of services available in London include Dial-a-Ride, Taxicard, Capital Call, community transport and NHS Patient Transport. TfL is a major funder and provider of door-to-door services, with London Boroughs and the voluntary sector also playing a significant role.
A long-term goal for TfL and the Committee is to bring about greater service integration, including a single set of eligibility criteria and a single journey booking process across services. Progress is being made with the action plan for integration agreed by TfL after its Social Needs Transport Review. I also believe we need to explore whether greater personalisation can also benefit service users.
The use of personal budgets in public service can help to transform lives. Already widely used in social care, personal budgets give service users more control over the services they receive so they can personalise their care and gain better outcomes.
Service users could use their budget in a way that suits their needs, choosing multiple short trips, maybe nipping to the shops, or less frequent longer journeys to visit loved ones. A more user-led model of delivering services could also help to reduce bureaucracy and cut costs.
There are practical challenges to overcome. There is no single model for how personal budgets would work in door-to-door services. For instance, TfL and partners would need to decide whether to provide cash to service users, or a ‘virtual budget’ controlled by the user but held by others.
Other elements to be determined are whether there would be any restrictions on the providers that users can choose for a door-to-door journey, and whether a personal budget would be optional or mandatory. The specific arrangements for personal budgets may differ according to the amount of money available to users, how they receive and use their allocation, any restrictions on journey types or costs, the range of providers available, and other factors.
We are keen to hear from providers of door-to-door services, including those in the community transport sector, as well as people who use the services. We aim to find out if door-to-door service users want to be able to use a personal budget for these services, and what support providers would need to adopt this approach. If you are interested in sharing views, please take a look at our website here: https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assemblys-current-investigations/door-door-transport-services. We are inviting written submissions, and will also be meeting providers and service users. Get in touch with our team if you want to know more.
Without reliable door-to-door transport services people are prevented from carrying out everyday activities and can end up feeling trapped and isolated. We want the delivery of door-to-door services to be at least as good as other modes of public transport – services should be convenient, safe and cost-effective. Introducing personal budgets may provide the opportunity to transform how door to door services are delivered, so that they can effectively meet growing demands.