Author Archives: Gemma Bradshaw

Poor connections – transport and poverty

New research from the Campaign for Better Transport emphasises the impact poor transport has on people on low incomes.  This is a growing concern as funding cuts continue to affect public transport.

Impact of poor public transport

They found that those on low incomes are more reliant on bus services with half of the poorest fifth of the population not having a car. Low income communities also tend to have higher exposure to the negative impacts of transport, including being at greater risk of being killed or seriously injured on the roads.

We know that the bus concession allows older people to reach key services, friends and family without having to make difficult financial decisions. But this obviously goes hand in hand with having good bus services. (See recent blog – Keeping bus services free and reliable.)

The impact poor transport has on people’s lives is brought to life in the research by Campaign for Better Transport by an in-depth case study of the Burbank Estate in Hartlepool.

A mile away from the town centre, some residents from the Estate can walk to use the shops and services they need. But many  have to rely on a bus that runs only three days a week or incur the expense of taxis.

Losing a regular bus service

A regular bus service that residents in Burbank relied on has recently been changed. Stephen, who has lived in Burbank most of his life, is now retired and has severe arthritis, commented:

“A lot of people blame the Council, but it is not their fault – the Central Government deficit has been passed on, but it’s frustrating, they didn’t need to be so stringent. The trouble is that the decision isn’t taken by people that live around here. They are managers and have cars. Those affected are the poor people who can’t afford cars”

Two things jump out from this comment. First that owning a car has become a necessity. The locations of shops and services are often based on the assumption that we all own a car. Secondly, that the Council needs to do more to listen and find solutions that meet people’s transport needs.

Government inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee has just launched an inquiry covering some of these issues. They plan to examine whether Government policy is providing the transport infrastructure people need to get access to key services.

Age UK will be responding and would like to hear about your experiences.

Do you live in a ‘transport desert’? Have you recently lost the public transport you relied on, whether it is a bus or ring-and-ride? Let us know your views by leaving a comment below or emailing gemma.bradshaw@ageuk.org.uk

Age UK is committed to improving standards for people in later life. We seek to influence decision makers by conducting social and economic analysis, developing public policy proposals and shaping policy agendas in a wide range of areas. Find out more about our public policy work 

Keeping bus services free and sustainable

Over the last year there have been significant funding cuts to bus services. Many people will have seen the impact these changes are having on the ability of older people to get out to key services and to see friends and family.

With this in mind Age UK commissioned two research projects to evaluate the value of buses and concessionary travel for older people. Our recently published report -Getting out and about- summarises the findings of this research.

In short we found that keeping buses both free and sustainable is vital for older people to stay connected and maintain their independence.

Money management

The concession allows older people to reach key services, friends and family without having to make difficult financial decisions. Notably, ownership and use of the concessionary bus pass is highest for those on the lowest income.

‘Now I have free bus travel, I don’t need a car. I gave it up…and all the cost and worries of it breaking down and all that’ (Male, 77, town)

Continue reading

Getting the heart back into our high streets

In the same week that the “Portas Pilots” were announced to revitalise our local high streets, shoppers in Leeds were taken by surprise as more than 50 older people gathered in the Victoria Quarter of the city to dance to T-Rex ‘We Love to Boogie’.

A city for all ages

They were there taking part in a ‘flash dance’ – inspired by ‘flash-mob’ campaigns where a group of people suddenly start an unannounced coordinated action in a public place to get their message heard. It was organised by Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) to raise awareness of their campaign to make Leeds ‘a city for all ages’.

Frustrated by the promotion of Leeds as a city for young people, with a heavy focus on nightlife and clubbing, they wanted to highlight the common needs of older and younger people. Things like better public transport, public toilets and seating that make it easier to get into and around the place. Making the city a destination for everyone; a lesson that all high streets should take on board. Continue reading

Post Office revamp: will it pass the consumer test?

The government has announced a much welcome £1.3bn investment to modernise the Post Office network. There will be changes to 6,000 branches over the next three years designed to halt the decline in Post Office branch numbers. However, a report from Consumer Focus warns that the idea still has teething problems.

Modernisation plan: Post Office Locals

Following the Post Office closure programme everyone is well aware that the network needs modernising to put it on a more financially sustainable footing.

The Post Office provides vital services for older people. In many areas the Post Office provides the only access to postal and financial services that are close to people’s homes.

Part of the investment plan will see 2,000 branches revamped as Post Office “Locals”. In these branches Post Office services will no longer be at a dedicated counter but offered from a main retail counter in existing premises.

Photo: Abigail Silvester (Creative Commons)

The Local will provide a core range of services, which are regularly used by Post Office customers. The focus is on quick and easy services at the counter, which means more complex services, such as paying paper-based bills or parcel pick-up services, will not be available.

In many cases existing Post Offices will be converted to this new model, but it could also mean Post Office service popping up in petrol stations, convenience stores or even the local pub.

Making sure it works for consumers

Consumer Focus research has looked at the consumer experience in the 105 pilot Post Office Locals, which are already operating. Their findings show both risks and opportunities in this new way of providing Post Office services.

On the one hand the report notes that longer opening hours and the convenient location of the stores was seen to be popular with customers. This is good news as convenient access to Post Offices is of particular concern to older people – an Age UK survey found 18% of older people currently find it difficult to get to their Post Office.

However, Consumer Focus reported there were a number of experiences reported by customers that need to be taken into account before the model is rolled out further:

  • Products and services range: One in five say Locals offer only some or few of the products they need.
  • Privacy for personal or sensitive transactions: Over a third of users find the privacy of Post Office Locals to be poor and 41% say it is worse than in traditional Post Offices.
  • Reliable and consistent services: The mystery shopper research found a Second Class letter was sold correctly in only one in five transactions.
  • Cash withdrawals: There were incidents where a cap was put on the amount of cash or benefits a consumer can withdraw.

Some of these points correlate with concerns older people already have with Post Office services. For instance, in an Age UK survey about existing Post Office services 21% would like more privacy at the counter.

The investment programme has to be seen as an opportunity to maintain universal access to Post Office services. There is still time for these issues to be ironed out to make sure consumers get the best results from the change.

 None of these concerns are insurmountable, but it does need the Post Office to act on the findings.

Last year, Age UK helped 500,000 people put £120million back in their pockets through free benefits information and advice. This year, we will continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from claiming, in particular older people not realising that they are eligible for some additional income. For more information, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/moremoney

Find out more about our work on consumer issues