Leeds charity selected as part of government funding for transport projects tackling loneliness
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The projects will be evaluated to develop an evidence base for how transport policies can reduce the number of people feeling lonely.
Pilot projects receiving a share of the £5 million funding include support for older people using public transport after the pandemic, autism awareness training for staff across the transport network and a group electric cycling scheme.
Among those selected were Leeds Older People’s Forum who received funding for their Travel Connections scheme.
Working with a range of local voluntary sector partners, this project will use buses, taxis, active travel and travel conversations to explore how existing transport resources in Leeds can be better used to reduce loneliness in older people.
"We're extremely excited to have been awarded this grant. We know what a huge barrier transport needs can be for older people." said, Roger Harington, Chair of Leeds Older People's Forum.
"This funding will enable us, with our local voluntary sector partners, to explore a range of innovative ideas on how changes in transport at all levels can help to alleviate loneliness and increase independence among older people."
Millions of people across the nation are struggling with feelings of loneliness, which were exacerbated by the pandemic.
Findings from the pilots will be used to inform how future transport schemes can contribute to reducing loneliness in communities.
“Loneliness affects millions of people across the UK. Transport can help us solve this problem by connecting us to people, places, and experiences." said, Minister Baroness Vere.
“We will continue to work closely with transport providers and community groups to build an inclusive and accessible transport network.”
National Autistic Society’s Driving change for autistic people will also be offering training to transport providers across England.
It is hoped that this will ensure staff have an increased understanding of autism – removing barriers for autistic people who wish to use public transport to reduce their loneliness.
Christine Flintoft-Smith, Head of Autism Accreditation at the National Autistic Society, said:
“Autistic people represent a huge part of our society – around 1 in 100 people in the UK. And they need to travel to school, work and to the shops, just like everyone else.
“But some autistic people can feel so anxious about travelling on public transport that they find it hard to leave the house at all. It's not just worries about crowds and or a sudden diversion, which can trigger intense anxiety. It’s also concerns about whether other passengers will stare or tut if they do become overwhelmed.
“We hope our Driving Change for Autistic People project will remove barriers for autistic people who wish to use public transport and ultimately help reduce loneliness and social isolation. It’s so important that all staff understand autism and the often small adjustments that can make all the difference to autistic passengers.”