7.1 The evidence collected as part of this study has clearly demonstrated that CT offers a wide range of economic, social and health benefits. The findings of the research should assist in filling the gaps in the Scotland-specific evidence base and will provide Scottish Ministers with the information required to make more informed decisions on future CT policy.
7.2 However, it is also important to note that the scale of the contributions which CT makes to the positive outcomes outlined remains unclear.
Benefits of CT
7.3 The review of the literature and subsequent primary research demonstrated the wide ranging benefits of community transport. As well as promoting accessibility & social inclusion, social interaction, independence, rural sustainability and other policy areas, CT providers themselves act as employers and local buyers, supporting the whole community in which they operate.
7.4 The extensive cross-cutting nature of CT is perhaps unique amongst transport services. The evidence demonstrates that CT is far more than a point-to-point transport service - the CT services examined show the importance of, for example, social interaction on the bus and the role CT plays in encouraging often vulnerable people to attend medical and other appointments they would not otherwise make. A further stand-out point was the role played by drivers in the early detection of emerging issues with a passenger's health and well-being.
7.5 From an economic perspective, the potential cost savings provided to social services, the NHS and local authorities, combined with the unremunerated productive hours offered by volunteers, suggests that CT generates significant economic benefits. From a social perspective, the contribution of CT across a wide range of policy areas is clearly beneficial. Moreover, by tackling issues such as poor accessibility, social isolation etc, CT is making an important contribution to reducing inequalities, a key item on the Scottish Government policy agenda.
Challenges with CT
7.6 Whilst the cross-policy role of CT is of considerable value, it also presents its own challenges. CT continues to be viewed almost exclusively as a transport service, a point which is even reflected in the fact that Transport Scotland commissioned this research study. Funding generally comes from local transport departments and a combination of Trusts and Charities, with some limited support from the NHS. Consultations suggest that there is an urgent need to review this approach and ensure that CT is more fully integrated across the full spectrum of policy areas it supports.
7.7 The wider funding picture is also a challenge for the CT sector. Whilst the research supports the view that CT offers substantial cost savings for local authorities, it is not immune from the increasing pressures on public sector funding, particularly in terms of revenue budgets. Indeed, our consultations with the case study providers suggest that a number of services have been withdrawn in recent years following the discontinuation of funding. Associated with this is the absence of certainty and the inability to plan long-term as a result of time limited funding streams. This ties back to the point that CT is fundamentally viewed as a transport service and supports the argument that the cost burden should be shared across all policy areas which benefit.
7.8 From a research perspective, this research has demonstrated the diversity of the CT sector and the challenges faced in developing a consistent approach to funding and organising the sector.