Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the YMCA (Bus 53)


  This document highlights transport problems faced by young people that the YMCA works with across England. All the evidence is based on our practical experience of young people in our seven areas of work. [34]The evidence focuses on issues surrounding bus services, although it also includes problems with, and ideas for, alternative forms of transport.


The Problems

  1.  Safety—young people often feel their safety is compromised by travelling home, especially late at night. No buses, buses that are full when they get to your stop and no other affordable transport available when coming out of the pub/club are problems. Those who still live at home say their parents' concerns over safety impacts on their social life too—safer and more reliable transport would help quell those fears. Many young men point out that they, as well as women, feel at risk of attack if walking home at night.

Case Study: Norwich YMCA

  Background: Reacting to a number of deaths of young people after clubbing and socialising late at night in the town the YMCA, police, city council, licensees and local paper teamed up to try and find a solution to the problem. An "SOS bus" scheme was launched in April 2001.

  The project: The 17.4m long bus is stationed in the centre of town. Anyone who feels threatened by drunkenness, drugs, illness or injury or emotional distress can go to the bus any time from 9pm—3am on a Friday and Saturday night. Transport can be arranged, directions given, or supported offered until a person feels safe to go home.

  Public transport: The mobility of the bus means it can be stationed when need is greatest. It links via a radio system to local taxi companies who can come and take people home—meaning young people have somewhere safe to wait. The bus staff also spend a lot of time giving out directions—when ensuring people get home safely never underestimate the importance of directions to and information on transport.

  Editor of the Eastern Evening News said: "In an ideal world there would be no need. Young revellers would remain totally responsible, none would be served too much drink; there would be no aggravation, transport would be waiting to take them home at the end of the evening. In your dreams."

  Success? The YMCA bus went to Labour Party Conference 2001 and was visited by Secretary of State for the Home Office David Blunkett MP who expressed his support. Charles Clark, a Norwich MP, has backed the scheme.

What transport changes we'd like to see:

  Safety—regular, reliable night transport. In London, the tube should continue running later than at present to avoid transport chaos. Regular buses will avoid overcrowding of the bus that means some people wait long periods of time in the dark. In rural areas cheaper cabs would help. Funding of night-club mini-buses/coaches by some venues and by students' unions have proved to be a popular, cheap and safe way to transport people home over long distances and such schemes should be funded and encouraged, or even become part of a licensing agreement in rural areas. Bus and train operators should all operate a cab meeting scheme so those that may live off a bus route can have a cab waiting for them at the stop. Buses with more flexible routes at night could drop off young people closer to home.


The problem

  1.  Providing stable accommodation for young people near the services they need. In rural areas this is particularly difficult, many young people need to find accommodation near support networks such as family or friends. However, these are often far away from job centres, housing support workers and other essential services they may need.

  2.  Differential housing benefit for under 25s (single room rent) often means young people cannot afford accommodation near services or places of work. They are forced to take rooms out of town in more secluded areas. The cost of transport then has an impact on their ability to find work, stay in a low paid job or even sign on.

Case Study: Mendip YMCA

  Background: Mendip YMCA in Wells works with other organisations, such as the local authority, the NHS and the CAB to provide emergency accommodation to young homeless people in rural areas.

  The project: Emergency accommodation is provided by a Social Services approved family, closer to home than would otherwise be possible. A support worker visits each day (often travelling long distances) to provide help and essential lifts such as to housing benefit offices, social services, the doctor or a job interview.

  Public transport: The area is served by a rural bus service but the level of service decreases in more remote areas. Most support services are based in Glastonbury or Frome—both of which take over an hour to reach by bus.

  The problems: The cost of public transport can be prohibitive to young homeless people. In order to obtain a crisis loan it is necessary to travel to Yeovil. Without the loan it is impossible to get there. The college bus service has been restricted, making it difficult to attend courses. Young people attending job interviews find long journeys involved to be additional obstacles both financially and psychologically.

  Some solutions: The lifts provided by the support workers for such travel is essential for the emergency accommodation scheme to operate.

  There is also a moped loan scheme developed by Somerset Youth Project whereby young people are able to rent a moped for six months for around £6 per week in order to gain employment and thus provide themselves with independent travel means. This currently operates in a limited number of areas.

Case Study: Romford Foyer

  Many young people at Romford YMCA find it difficult to finance transportation to job interviews or to purchase the travel card needed to the first weeks of a new job. There is no provision for such expenses from New Deal so loans are made from a general homeless fund (from the YMCA's own youth development fund) for genuine employment-related expenses. Once they receive a salary the young people should repay their travel loan to the YMCA.

What transport changes we'd like to see:

    —  Cheaper transport for those on benefits to help those living in rural areas. Further suggestions are made below in sections on Money & Work and Education and Skills.

    —  Expansion of moped loan schemes, such as the one developed by Somerset Youth Project. "A resident worked at an old people's home out in the country, there was no way to get into town on public transport. They found it hard." Janice, Burgess Hill YMCA.

    —  Expansion of public transport links in rural areas.


The problems

  1.  Few choices—the costs of transport mean young people often have to make choices between some basic living essentials, ie transport to the job centre versus electricity or food. The problem is amplified when different service providers are a long way apart or when a young person is subsidising their accommodation from their income support.

    "[There should be . . .] one fare even if you need to take two buses to reach your destination." R Williams, High Wycombe YMCA.

  2.  Youth & housing workers who have to use more than one route or form of transport find that it takes them a long time to get to work and limits late night working with young people.

  3.  Added value by agencies such as YMCA to existing schemes. New Deal and other such government funded schemes do not take appropriate account of the costs of transport once a young person is placed on an option or has a job. YMCAs often have to find other ways of funding young people's transport needs from their core funding.

  "In Birchwood all the job services are located in Warrington—it costs £1.50 each way which is expensive when on benefits." Keith, Birchwood YMCA.

Case Study: YMCA Training: Job Search on the Road

  The problem: Young people in Northumberland, like many others, find that transportation is a major obstacle to finding employment in rural areas.

  A practical solution: YMCA Training in Durham launched a project called "Job Search on the Road". The vehicle is fully stocked with newspapers, business directories and stationery as well as two computers with access to the Internet for online job search. A tutor is on hand to help with CV writing/job applications and to give general advice. It also has full disability access with enough room for a wheelchair to be staged at one of the on-board desks.

  The result: This project has been able to reach people never reached before, stopping in villages and rural towns it eliminates many of the logistical, economic and psychological barriers to young people reaching job centres which are often located only in larger towns.

  Funding of projects like this would avoid many of the usual obstacles such as the economically non-viable and non-direct bus service to remote villages.

What transport changes we'd like to see

    —  One-fare: changing buses, train or onto any other transport means a new ticket and an additional fare. Young people have highlighted that if you are lucky to live on a straight through bus route you pay just one fare. If you need to change you end up paying double. A transfer between buses, operators and even modes of transport would make the difference.

    —  "Public transport should be cheaper than driving. Four people from High Wycombe to Reading is £20 return. Four people in a car costs about £5." Fiona, High Wycombe YMCA.


The problems:

  1.  "Due to lack of bus services residents have been unable to attend some classes for key skills"—youth worker, High Wycombe.

  2.  Young people who take the bus to school and college highlight the length of time it takes and how tired it makes them. They highlight the effect this has on their academic work as well as their social life.

Case Study: Colchester YMCA

  Colchester YMCA run a Learning Gateway Course which is provided by Prospects (Government Funded Training). The course provides life skills and training for young people that have missed out on schooling or are lacking in life skills. It also provides help with CVs, job applications and interviews. Local charity minibuses are used for transport to get them to team building exercises and any travel associated with the course is paid for by Prospects who also pay any travel costs over £4 per week for travel to interviews.

  As part of the course 20 hours of driving lessons are provided. The driving school comes to the YMCA to teach theory once a week and the YMCA training officers provides revision sessions, access to CD ROM, books and mock tests. However, most young people on the course continue to seek employment locally in Colchester because of the cost of travelling. Some local companies and temping agencies provide minibus transport to and from work.

What transport changes we'd like to see:

    —  Consideration should be given to making it cheaper for those studying to travel to college, especially those in full time FE who are unable to get any grants, loans or benefits but also face high transport costs of as much as £15 per week. Travel passes, either for discount or free travel could be considered for those studying for a limited geographical area in order to facilitate study-related travel.


The Problem

  1.  Children and young people complain that during school holidays no extra services are put on to towns and leisure attractions.

  2.  Holiday transport for trips has become limited in recent years due to the high costs of replacing transport such as minibuses to the new standards. Local authorities are also getting rid of their pool transport. There are also costs associated with putting volunteer drivers through the test or hiring drivers.

  3.  Getting to rural childcare and school facilities is often difficult for parents without transport, isolating the parent and the child.

Case Study: Bath YMCA

  Background: Bath YMCA's after-school club summer projects were under threat as the minibus that local groups used to hire was sold due to high costs. The choices open to them were to either cancel the trips or to charge children full price for the trips as they would have to hire a commercial minibus—the latter proved to be too expensive for most children. Finally a donor stepped in to fund the costs.

What transport changes we'd like to see:

    —  Capital grants to be available for purchasing transport equipment by charities or local authorities.

    —  As well as walking to school campaigns government could look at shared transport to school/nursery schemes in rural areas.


The Problems:

  1.  Poor transport can lead to missing hospital or benefit appointments. Missing either of those can give you a black mark and a long time to wait for another appointment—affecting finances and health.

  2.  Hospital discharge—when emergency rooms or normal hospital wards discharge a patient it is up to the patient to find their own way home. Young people who may have been admitted to accident and emergency departments and discharged in the evening may have no form of transport home and may not be able to afford a cab.

  3.  Access to leisure and sports facilities—many sports facilities, specialist coaching and training are expensive to get to and would require late night journeys home which many transport providers do not offer. Many towns do not have a great deal of easy-to-walk-to leisure facilities. New out of town cinemas such as the one in Taunton do not even have a footpath.

Case Study: Nottingham YMCA

  Nottingham Sport in the Community Project is run by Nottingham YMCA with funding from the City Council.

  The Broxtowe Estate in Nottingham is a deprived area with high numbers of single parent families and low levels of private car ownership. The already low levels of service provided by local buses through the estate have recently been cut back further leaving many young people feeling unable to travel at all.

  The Project: The project takes sport and fitness training out into the community to the people who need it. Many schools lack proper facilities but the Sport in the Community Project operates after-school sports clubs around the city. During school holidays the project uses venues such as school playing fields and leisure centres but also local recreation grounds and public parks so that activities always take place in areas that are accessible to young people by foot.

What transport changes we'd like to see

    —  Time of transport to allow evening leisure activities: Travel contracts should ensure that services run until leisure facilities normally finish.

    —  Funding could be given to hospitals to provide an emergency travel costs scheme to allow people leaving emergency units to get home safely.

    —  Capital grants to be available for charities to purchase transport equipment.


The Problems:

  1.  Young people are charged adult fares from the age of 14.

  2.  Lack of transport impacts heavily on social and community activities—barring a young person becoming an active citizen. Buses often do not run frequently and late enough to enable young people to participate easily in social and community activities or local decision-making forums, such as youth councils.

  3.  There is no knowledge among young people as to how they can improve or change services or even who decides when and where services go.

  4.  Young people are unaware of indicators on transport but suggested that politicians should try and get around their constituency by public transport so they can see the problem. "I don't believe such policies consider young excluded people." Roy, Romford YMCA.

What transport changes we'd like to see:

    —  Young people should not be charged adult fares until the age of 16 when all other systems class them as adults. Concessionary fares should then be available for unemployed, students and those on schemes like New Deal.

    —  Each council and transport service should look at a variety of ways to engage young people and children in their decisions about transport, ensuring they seek out hard-to-reach groups such as the homeless and unemployed. Young people have a great deal of knowledge on public transport and will always have views on when, where and how transport should work.

May 2002

34   The YMCA is a Christian Charity committed to helping young people, particularly at times of need, regardless of gender, race, ability or faith. There are 151 local YMCAs working in more than 240 communities across England. Back

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