After 30 years working for community transport in the valleys of South Wales, Patricia (Pat) Bowen is contemplating her retirement. Pat has worked tirelessly during that time, gaining a unique perspective on how the sector has changed. With over three decades of experience, Pat has become a prominent figure within the community transport sector in Wales. CTA recently caught up with Pat ahead of her retirement to reflect on her career.
Pat is currently Executive Officer and Company Secretary for Accessible Caring Transport in Mountain Ash. Her career in transport began when she worked alongside her husband operating Hackney Carriage taxi services for children with disabilities from 1967 to 1976. At a time when passenger transport legislation was somewhat relaxed, Pat was identifying and implementing solutions to ensure the comfort and safety of her passengers.
In 1987 Pat found herself working as administrator with Cynon Valley Community Projects Association, using her existing transport knowledge to help establish a community transport service in the Welsh Valleys. As the years passed, the service developed and grew and, as it grew, Pat found more and more of her administration time taken up with increasing needs for funding, volunteer recruitment, training and coordination. “It was never a conscious decision,” she says, “I just followed my heart, providing transport for the most vulnerable.” The service eventually went on to become a registered Charity in 1998, at which point it gained the name Accessible Caring Transport, continuing to operate under the name to this very day.
Reflecting on her career within community transport, Pat notes how in those early days things never stood still! With a mind focussed on creative problem solving, Pat’s enjoyment came from bouncing ideas off others, working with people, sharing learning and using collaboration and partnerships to overcome obstacles. “The old Council boundary of Mid‑Glamorgan made things so much easier back then. It covered such a large area and held six different districts which made it easier to collaborate. When the new council boundaries came in it made things much harder.”
On the subject of challenges faced over those 30 years, it maybe isn’t surprising when Pat highlights that funding has always been the greatest challenge. “Constantly shifting criteria and eligibility and the need to keep adapting to changing government policies don’t make it any easier.” Interestingly, although volunteer recruitment is next on her list of challenges, Pat notes that it used to be much easier. “Back when we started there were always lots of other things going on that you could link into, but changes to legislation became overly restrictive; it’s made people reluctant to get involved and stifled development and creativity.”
When asked why she feels community transport is important, Pat is immediately reminded of the disabled children she used to help and of the many people who have relied on ACT over the years. “It’s for everyone!” she says. “For the disabled, the vulnerable and older people. Without us many people would be housebound or likely end up in social care. For the people we serve, community transport means everything!”
Finally, we asked Pat how she has overcome the challenges faced through 30 years of operating community transport. What would she say to others? Her response perfectly encapsulates her attitude and desire to make a difference;
“Don’t see the problems. Just get involved! I don’t see the point of just sitting about talking. You’ve got to keep pushing forward”