Share Your Stories

Tom Banner

One of our primary activities here at the CTA is to advocate on behalf of our members. This can mean campaigning politically and standing up for the rights of CT operators, but it also means shouting from the rooftops about the fantastic work that our members do, day in and day out, to make life better for so many people.

To that end, one of the things that we want to start doing is showcasing the people that our members help and the numerous and varied ways in which they help them. We want to let everyone, within the transport sector and outside of it, know how community transport changes people’s lives for the better.

For that, we need your help. 

No one knows the individuals that benefit from community transport services better than our members, so we’re asking you to get in touch with the stories that you’d like to share.

Perhaps you know a particular passenger, or group of passengers, whose stories might resonate with, or inspire people. You might have a driver or a volunteer who demonstrates the best of what community transport has to offer. We’re looking for stories, on the ground, of the day to day impact that community transport has on the lives of so many people.

Because, at its heart, community transport isn’t about permits or licences, vital though they are, it’s not about politics and it’s not even about minibuses; it’s about people. It’s about the 85 year old who left the house today, the child who can get to school and the young person who can get a job. It’s about people up and down the country who can participate in their communities because of the work that our members do. That is what we all do this for, and that is the image of community transport that we want to present to the world.

We have no doubt that there are so many stories of people up and down the country just waiting to be told. It would be our privilege to tell them.

So, please, if you have a story you’d like to share, email tom@ctauk.org

Community Transport Association Westminster Conference

Stephen Hickey banner

Transport has never been more important and the debates about its future have never been more lively.  Community transport is vital for people and communities across the country, and it’s our job here at the CTA to make sure that its voice is heard.

This year we’re holding our annual Westminster Conference on 25 November. The venue, One Great George Street, is in the heart of Westminster and is a perfect place to put community transport front and center. We’re going to be showcasing a fantastic line up of speakers including Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport; Dr. Jon Lamont, Chief Executive, Transport for Greater Manchester; David McNeill, Director of External Affairs, Transport for London; Rachael Gilbert, Buses and Taxis Division, Department of Transport; Debra Charles, CEO, Novacroft; Councillor Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy, Environment, Housing and Transport Board; and many more.

For a full list of speakers, take a look at our programme.

The conference is a chance for our members and others working in the CT sector to discuss current issues with those at the forefront of policy and decision making. What is the latest thinking on safety and training for the sector?  What is the future of regulation, following recent EU challenges?  What are the implications of the spending review, delegation initiatives and forthcoming busses legislation?  How do the national policy challenges relate to the day-to-day issues already facing members on the ground, and what messages should we be sending to the policy makers?  This is an opportunity to exchange ideas across the sector,  with colleagues in community transport and with local and national government.

The day will also foster discussion amongst our member and supporters: sharing stories and ideas and discussing where we see community transport heading in the future. There’ll be panels on how we can re-imagine local transport as well as whether community transport can, or should, be fun as well as functional. Our lineup of speakers will be leading these discussions, making for an informative and energetic day of debate.

As well as the main sessions, the day will enable networking opportunities and the chance to continue the discussions informally and exchange local experience.

The price of attendance is £125 for CTA members and £165 for non-members which includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day. You can book your place here.

So, please, whether you’re a community transport operator or involved in the sector in another capacity, join me and the rest of the Community Transport Association team on 25 November for what promises to be an important and informative day for all those in the CT community.

CTA Training Courses

Amanda Banner

We all know that training is important. It can increase motivation and productivity; it decreases the need for supervision and reduces employee turnover; it can also increase safety and decrease work-related injury or illness. Most importantly it can reduce risk.

In the world of transport, the voluntary sector has sometimes been viewed as less ‘professional’. This may be because the legislation that underpins the section 19 (S10b in Northern Ireland) and 22 permit system does not assess professional competence (unlike PSV Operator Licensing), nor does it require all drivers to hold a PCV D or D1 driving entitlement and Driver Certificate of Professional Competence.

However this legislation does not mean that the voluntary sector is any less able to provide transport in a professional, safe and legal manner.

I remember my own days of working for a community transport provider and the demands on my time, resulting in long hours of very rewarding work.  I started as a volunteer in the office and it was suggested that I received training in MiDAS (Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme).  This enabled me to drive the organisation’s minibuses, but more importantly I had personal experience and was able to discuss the training with other drivers and reassure them that it was actually an enjoyable process!

I progressed up the MiDAS ladder and became a Driver Assessor Trainer and was able to train our own drivers.  I then joined the organisation as an employee and continued training, becoming an NVQ Assessor and Internal Verifier.  I then passed the Certificate of Professional Competence in National Passenger Transport and became the Transport Manager on the company’s PSV Operators Licence.

All of this training, as well as the ability to put the learning into practice, drove up the professional credibility of the organisation.  We were able to provide more services to our members and to the organisation we were set up to benefit. This in turn provided a flow of revenue which was used to train more staff and volunteers.

I also learned that whilst I was busy dealing with the day-to-day operations of the organisation, I wasn’t always able to keep up to date with all the legal issues we really needed to know about.  The CTA’s Advice Service was invaluable to have on speed-dial.

Now, however, I actually work for the CTA and I’m excited to be part of the team delivering the our training programme for 2015/16.  In Great Britain the training is focusing on two of our Foundation Courses – Safe and Legal and Minibus Management.  Both look at minibus operations using section 19 permits and both are a must for any voluntary sector transport provider.  More information on all the CTA courses and their content can be found at: http://www.ctonline.org.uk/events/cta-events/default.aspx.

CTA training courses are great not only for keeping up to date with changes in legislation and best practice, but also to network with other like-minded people delivering essential voluntary sector services.  Whilst you’re doing that, I’m working at keeping the CTA up to date with all of the things that affect our sector and everything you need to know to stay safe and legal. Why not book yourself onto one of our training courses; I look forward to meeting you!

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Getting to know Community Transport: Helena’s Story

Helena Banner

I started work at the CTA in September 2014 through Charityworks, a professional development programme designed for graduates seeking a career in the non-profit sector. In 2014-15, Charityworks hired around 100 graduates and placed them in roles within a wide range of charities that had signed up to the scheme across England; we then spent a year in these organisations in a diverse set of roles, gaining experience in the sector and the world of work, attending a series of training sessions to learn more about the sector and carrying out our own independent research.

When I was initially offered a role at the CTA, I must admit that I had little to no knowledge or experience of community transport. However, once I had done my research and found out about the fantastic work community transport does across the country I became eager to start the role, and to work with and learn from such a wide set of member organisations. This – combined with the role’s focus on policy and communications, two areas of interest for me – made working at the CTA an exciting prospect.

The first few weeks at the CTA were certainly a learning curve for me. As well as being introduced to the UK non-profit world as a whole I was also familiarising myself with more community transport-specific situations and challenges. It took a while for me to get my head around D1 licencing issues, what the different permits do and how BSOG works but I tried to immerse myself and learn as much as I could first-hand from members themselves by visiting organisations. My involvement in the State of the Sector survey and report for England near the start of my placement really helped; analysing the data meant that I was exposed to really comprehensive information about lots of different organisations. It was also a really proud moment to see the published report with my name on it.

From a long list of projects and activities I’ve been involved in this year, there are some others that stand out for me. Helping plan, organise and run events such as the CTA England Policy Conference 2014 and the 2015 Roadshow has been really rewarding, as well as a great opportunity for me to meet people from all over the community transport sector. I also produced a CTA Consultancy research report on the subject of accessible transport for another national charity, which once published will be used as a key campaigning document. Managing and producing the CTA News Brief has also been an enjoyable part of my communications work, as well as coming up with recommendations for further development; if you’d like to sign up to receive our new look News Brief, click here. Most of all, however, I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had to visit member organisations for various research projects throughout the year, both for the CTA and Charityworks. Meeting the staff members and volunteers who carry out the work on the ground is an important reminder of who the CTA exists for.

A year’s experience is not much to get to know a sector as diverse as the voluntary sector. I’ve come into contact with a great many inspiring people and organisations but I am sure that I have only just scratched the surface. However, I have certainly seen enough to know that this is a sector with a huge amount to offer and one that I hope to stay involved with throughout my career.

Department for Transport Bus Reform Workshops

Director of Policy & Practice, Gareth Blackett discusses how CTA members can have their say on the new Buses bill.

Gareth Banner

For so many people who use community transport services, bus routes provide a vital lifeline to their communities. For older people, those with disabilities, the unemployed, younger people and those in low income jobs, bus services run by community transport operators can have a significant impact.

It’s important, then, that we at the Community Transport Association work with the government to make sure that community transport organisations are enabled to provide the best services they can to those that need them. This year, the Department for Transport is looking at reforming bus services across England in what is being referred to as the ‘Buses Bill.’ The CTA is keen to work with everyone involved in the process to ensure that the bill offers the best deal for local communities. The CTA also strongly believes that community transport should feature prominently in any new regulatory system and is committed to making sure that the voices of our members are heard in this process.

To that end, we’d like to encourage our members to take part in the Department for Transport’s briefing sessions in September and October to speak up for community transport in discussions surrounding the Bill.  The sessions, in which the DfT are hoping to hear from those across the transport sector, are taking place in Birmingham, London, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol. The time, dates and venues can be found on our website.

To help our members in raising issues that we feel are vital to ensuring that the bill puts community transport at its centre, we’ve produced a briefing document highlighting the most salient issues. You can download the full briefing paper here but our primary suggestions are that the Buses Bill should devolve responsibility for bus regulation to all local authorities at County Council level, in addition to those Passenger Transport Executives with an elected Mayor, and franchise bus services via partnership mechanisms which integrate community transport into the overall bus network.

We want the voices of community transport operators to be heard in this process so we’re encouraging members to attend one of the briefing sessions and highlight the opportunities for community and voluntary transport in the Buses Bill. If you are planning to attend, please email info@ctauk.org or click here to let us know. As the event is being run by the Department for Transport, you can’t book through us however. Email the DfT on busworkshops2015@dft.gsi.gov.uk to book your place.

We believe that the Bill can help to ensure that community transport is integrated into mainstream bus networks, and improve the understanding of the work that the sector does. These workshops are a great opportunity for members to share that point of view and fly the flag for community transport, so please get involved.

BBC Lifeline visits CTA in Northern Ireland

Kellie Armstrong, CTA’s Country Director Northern Ireland discusses a visit from BBC Lifeline.

Kellie Armstrong Banner 1

Update: CTA’s slot on Lifeline will air in Northern Ireland on Sunday 11th (5:05pm) and Monday 12th October (11:05pm) on BBC One and Wednesday 14th (1:00pm) on BBC 2. 

For those of us who work in the world of community transport, we know what a lifeline it is for so many people all across the UK. Working as the CTA’s Director for Northern Ireland, I’ve seen first-hand the wide range of people whose day-to-day lives are immeasurably improved by our members and the services that they provide.

Too often, though, knowledge of community transport is confined to those that use the services and doesn’t extend to the general public. That’s why we were so thrilled to get a visit from Tim McGarry and the team at BBC Northern Ireland this week; they came to take a look at the work done by some of our members and to talk to some of the passengers that they help.

Well known to many across Northern Ireland, Tim is a prolific comedian, satirist and presenter and took the wheel of one of our minibuses to explore the role that community transport plays in the lives of residents across the country. Passengers and volunteer drivers were on hand to explain to Tim and the viewers at home why CT services are so important.

Two of our members, Lagan Valley Rural Transport and Out and About, provided vehicles and drivers for filming. Like many of our members working with those facing social isolation and exclusion, they strive day in and day out to ensure that individuals are empowered to participate in their communities regardless of their circumstances.

It’s also important for us at the CTA to advocate for the people that use our services: bringing their stories to the forefront and explaining their needs and our responsibility as a community to meet them.  Janet Grey, for example, is a user of community transport and a world champion water-skier who has not only competed in the Paralympic Games (as if that wasn’t impressive enough) but also had the honour to light the Belfast 2012 Paralympic cauldron as the torch journeyed around the UK. Janet, along with those from many other walks of life, will be featured on the programme, demonstrating who community transport helps and why. Ann Collins, former CEO of Shopmobility Belfast and the Shopmobility NI Federation, explained why appropriate transport is so important for people like her who use a wheelchair and how an accessible vehicle opens up a world of possibilities by enabling rather than segregating people with disabilities.

Patricia Laverty, a volunteer car driver, confirmed how important volunteering is within communities and how much volunteers themselves benefit from providing the service.

The determination to make a difference in their community is inherent across the entire community transport sector and is shared by paid staff and volunteers alike. With the help of our colleagues within these organisations we’re hoping that our appearance on Lifeline brings the work that they do to a wider audience and continues to extol the virtues of community transport.

For those in Northern Ireland, the programme will air on Sunday 16th October and Monday 17th October on BBC One and Wednesday 19th on BBC Two. Times are not yet confirmed but keep a look out around 4pm on the 16th, 11pm on the 17th and 1pm on the 19th. For those who live outside Northern Ireland, I’m sure with the wonders of iPlayer we’ll be able to bring it to you all the same.

Welcome to the CTA’s new blog!

Chief Executive Bill Freeman discusses what to expect from our new blog.

Bill Banner circle

Hello, and welcome to the launch of the CTA’s blog!

There are a number of reasons for an organisation to start a blog, the most obvious of which might appear to be self-promotion- and that’s certainly part of it. With the era of social media well and truly here, having a blog is one of numerous ways that an organisation can reach out to the world, making themselves known and getting people to buy whatever it is they’re selling.

But for a charity like the CTA, there’s another more important reason: we’re proud of what we and our members do and we want to shout it from the rooftops. As the UK’s membership organisation for Community Transport operators, it’s our job to advocate on their behalf and whilst that means lobbying government and influencing legislation it also means promoting who we are as a sector and what we do. It means providing professional insights from myself and others at the CTA and sharing the stories of our members and the people they serve.

Over the coming months we’re going to be sharing the thoughts and insights of those across the CTA. That could be me, discussing what I see as the challenges that CT providers are facing, it could be CTA Country Directors discussing community transport in the various areas of the UK, or it could be people working in our member organisations, talking about what they’re seeing in the Community Transport sector. The aim of these sorts of blogs is to give people a look into how the Community Transport sector works and to provide our members with what we hope will be interesting and useful insights – with the occasional call to action

We’re also going to be shining the spotlight on the work that our members do and telling the human stories of their organisations and the people that they serve. One of the things that I’ve found during my time at CTA is that when you say the words ‘Community Transport’ to someone who isn’t part of the sector, the phrase might bring to mind the image of a minibus but that’s about it. It’s not until you start talking about the work that CT operators do: with the elderly, the disabled, with children and young adults, enabling them to be vibrant and involved members of their communities, that people really start to understand and appreciate their work. We all know someone who could benefit from help, or might need it in the future, and we all appreciate a community where anyone, at any stage of life can get where they need to go. That’s why we’re going to post stories about our members and the people that use their services: to show people the real impact that community transport has on the lives of so many.

If you’ve got any ideas about the sort of thing that you’d like to see discussed here then, please, feel free to get in touch. Until then- watch this space.