Tackling Social Exclusion Through Community Transport in Greater Easterhouse
D Halden, P Davison, Derek Halden Consultancy; J Farrington, University of Aberdeen; M Wardrop, Greater Easterhouse Development Agency, UK
The Greater Easterhouse area of Glasgow is one of the most deprived areas of Europe. Action programmes are tackling this deprivation with investment to improve housing, employment prospects, health, and education. Within many of these programmes transport is a key theme and this paper describes how community transport is being developed and co-ordinated with public transport to support the transport needs of residents in the area.
The paper summarises the findings of a consultancy project for the Greater Easterhouse Development Company and the National Health Service in Glasgow to build on international best practice for urban community transport developing and co-ordinating services within the area.
Transport trends in recent years have accentuated the gap between rich and poor, with those able to afford to own and run cars improving their personal accessibility, and those without cars, or struggling to afford car use, experiencing reduced accessibility due to declining bus services and higher public transport costs. Community based approaches have been at the leading edge of tackling these problems, and over the last few years there has been a step change in attitudes to such approaches. Community transport was viewed a few years ago as a solution of last resort, but is now seen as a fast growing sector and a first choice for certain types of transport provision.
A key focus in Easterhouse is to establish working partnerships towards an integrated community transport approach addressing health inequalities. The project aims to bring together statutory, voluntary and community organisations to address the transport and non transport issues through integrated action.
In the Glasgow area, Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive has a statutory responsibility to ensure that the transport needs of the population are met. The rail network receives significant public funding which is managed by SPT. There is also a large network of largely commercial bus services. For people unable to use these public transport services a dial-a-ride service exists to cater for these more specialised travel needs. There are also other statutory responsibilities for Health and Education transport which can be met partly using public transport and partly through contracts for defined services for example with the Scottish Ambulance Service. The first step in developing community transport for residents of Greater Easterhouse is therefore to identify the ways in which existing services do not cater for people?s needs. The review identified that reasons include:
* The cost of travel by public transport, particularly where groups are involved
* Fear of travel by public transport
* Social needs when travelling particularly for vulnerable people
* Travel needs at times of day or days of the week when public transport is not available.
Community transport requires the commitment of local people to make schemes work, manage their development, and ensure that sustainable funding is obtained. Although there may be few incentives for co-ordination, the ability to co-ordinate schemes with other community transport groups and with wider transport services significantly affects the long term sustainability of the services.
In recent years, cross cutting policies such as social inclusion, and sustainability have provided a framework within which many innovative community transport projects have been funded. Community transport initiatives to improve access to jobs have successfully integrated funding from health, economic development, social inclusion, and transport sources.
A particular gap in transport provision was found for access to hospital for cancer patients. The review was undertaken within a broad health policy aim for greater community involvement in the provision of health care services. Of particular importance was the availability of health funding for modernising acute health care services which included transport concerns.
Research shows that the well being of patients travelling to and from hospital affects their likelihood of recovery. Public transport is not suitable for all patients and ambulance services are often unsuitable, particularly for residents of peripheral housing estates such as those in Greater Easterhouse. Car owning households offer lifts by car for patients in wealthier areas but in deprived areas car ownership is low. Community transport solutions make available quality transport solutions for people from these areas.
Community transport depends on volunteers but in deprived areas with weak community capacity there are often fewer volunteers. People volunteer for a variety of reasons and there is a need to build community transport around these motivations. Once volunteers have been recruited it is also important to support them by:
* Finding them appropriate and sufficient work.
* Providing training appropriate for their tasks, and possibly for subsequent employment in relevant fields such as health and transport work.
* Using training to help people to see where they fit into the activities of the organisation, and the way their efforts contribute to the service as a whole. This is an important way of sharing good practice, raising standards and professionalism, and providing a safe and high quality service for users.
* The value of a community transport scheme to any organisation should be recognised, if possible through financial means. Covering volunteers? expenses where possible is another way of signalling their worth.
* The community transport scheme should take action to remove any barriers to the recruitment of particular groups, such as ethnic or religious minorities, people in low socio-economic groups, women, retired people, unemployed people, etc.
* Communication within the community organisation is critical in the retention of volunteers, as well as in the general efficiency of the organisation. This should be used to foster open-ness, mutual trust, clarity of understanding and appropriateness of roles.
In providing public services by transport, health, social services and other departments community transport is generally cheaper than other options. It is therefore often in the interests of these agencies to support community transport schemes. This can mean that community transport schemes which are overwhelmed by demands to take on the delivery of important services. There can therefore be strains on technical and managerial skills amongst the service providers.
Best practice involves agencies such as local authorities or health authorities:
* Ensuring that the demands placed on community transport schemes are consistent with the capabilities of the community and its staff and volunteers.
* Taking steps to fund, or otherwise enable, the necessary capacity-building in the community concerned.
* Ensuring that the demands made on the community scheme are organised and staged so that they do not overwhelm the scheme?s capacity.
The creation of a single despatch centre, through which all requests for transport pass, is regarded as the best way of ensuring adequate access to health care by community schemes, as it should deploy resources more efficiently and achieve better co-ordination.
Within a deprived area, community transport can be an important intermediate labour market. For long term unemployed people the development of skills in driving or support services for community transport has proved to be highly successful as a route back to full employment.
Association for European Transport