About This Report
1.1 This report sets out the findings from mixed methodology research exploring the views of National Entitlement Card (NEC) holders. The research comprised a large scale telephone survey of 3,127 NEC holders and eight focus groups. Transport Scotland Commissioned Research Resource, working in partnership with ODS Consulting to undertake the research. The research findings will help provide valuable insight into the use and value of the National Entitlement Card.
1.2 The Scotland-Wide Free Bus Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled people was introduced in April 2006. The scheme operates nationally, permitting free bus travel on any registered bus service. The scheme is open to anyone who lives in Scotland and who is either 60 years old or more, or who meets certain disability criteria and have applied for, and received a National Entitlement Card (NEC).
1.3 The disability criteria include:
- Disability Living Allowance under the higher rate of mobility or higher/middle rate of care;
- attendance Allowance;
- living in a care or residential home or hospital;
- being a Blue Badge holder;
- being profoundly or severely deaf;
- having a visual impairment;
- being told not to drive based on medical grounds;
- mental illness, learning difficulty or personality disorder that is recognised under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and has lasted for more than a year;
- having a terminal illness;
- having a progressive degenerative condition. Conditions such as Parkinson's Disease that impede your mobility entitle you to free bus travel;
- the loss of one or more limbs; or
- an injured veteran with mobility problems.
1.4 The take up levels of the National Concessionary Travel Scheme are high. Just over 1.2 million older and disabled people in Scotland have a National Entitlement Card for free bus travel. Data from Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics1 from 2011 identified that approximately 85% of all the concessionary cards were for the over 60s (about 1,050,778 cards) with the remaining 15% for disabled and companion cards. The National scheme replaced a variety of local schemes which had been in operation since the 1960s.
1.5 The Scottish Government has been exploring how the National Concessionary Travel scheme can be improved and developed since 2009. A review of the Scheme in 20092 undertook a postal survey and qualitative research with its users. This revealed that the National Concessionary Travel scheme was highly valued, particularly for local travel and reduced a sense of isolation in older people. It has also explored issues around setting the reimbursement rate for transport operators involved in the Scheme.3
1.6 There is, however, very little evidence about how older and disabled people use their National Entitlement Card to access concessionary travel. Transport Scotland commissioned Research Resource and ODS Consulting to undertake research to explore how people in Scotland use their National Entitlement Card and to assess their experiences of concessionary travel.
1.7 The overall aim of the research was to collect customer feedback from card holders on their use, and perception, of the scheme as well as on its administration.
1.8 The specific objectives were to provide evidence in relation to:
- The application and renewal process;
- Experience of using the NEC to access National Concessionary travel scheme and general experience of eligible cardholders who use their entitlement to free travel;
- Transport behaviours and patterns.