Briefing – Rollout of “free” bus travel for 5-21 year olds resident in Scotland

Bellow is a briefing from the Local Government Improvement Service in the rollout of “free” bus travel for 5-21 year olds resident in Scotland

Introduction
I am writing to update you on developments with the Scotland-wide Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme for under 22s. 

As you may know, from 31 January 2022 residents of Scotland aged 5-21 will be able to access free travel on bus services across Scotland with a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC. 

Transport Scotland, with the support of the IS and other delivery partners, had planned to launch a national marketing campaign on 5 January 2022 to encourage applications. However, due to the rising cases of COVID-19, and current messaging which encourages people to stay at home as much as possible, the decision has been taken to pause the launch of the marketing campaign until the situation improves.  

However, there are many essential reasons why children and young people might need to travel by bus and all delivery partners were keen to ensure that they could start benefitting from free bus travel at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, young people and children aged 5-21 years old will still be able to apply for their new or replacement NEC or Young Scot NEC from 10 January as planned, to access the scheme from 31 January onwards, but only those for whom bus travel is considered essential are being asked to submit their applications at this time.  This will also help to minimise pressure on local councils, also impacted by the current situation with the pandemic, who will be responsible for processing applications and responding to enquiries. 

Information about the scheme and how to apply is now available on the Transport Scotland website ahead of applications officially opening on 10 January. Messages will be shared through a network of delivery partners and stakeholders, and I hope you too will help get the message across using your channels. An information pack on the scheme is included with this letter. 

If you have any questions about the scheme, please contact Transport Scotland at: concessionarytravel@transport.gov.scot

Sarah Gadsden, Chief Executive, Improvement Service                                       

Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme – information pack for elected members

Overview
Free bus travel for 5-21 year olds resident in Scotland will be available from 31 January for those with a valid National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC.  Children under the age of 5 already travel for free on commercial bus services and don’t need a card.  

A national marketing campaign was due to launch from 5 January to encourage applications, giving full details on how and when to apply.  However, given the current situation with the pandemic, it has been decided to pause the launch of the national marketing campaign – which proactively encourages bus travel – until the current COVID-19 situation improves.  

All young people and children aged 5-21 years can still apply for their new or replacement NEC or Young Scot NEC from 10 January to access the scheme from 31 January. However, we are asking that only those for whom bus travel is essential apply at this time, because of work, education, health or care reasons, for example. Information about the scheme and how to apply is now available on the Transport Scotland website ahead of local authority delivery partners opening applications on 10 January.  

This approach will also help minimise pressure on local councils who will be processing applications and responding to queries, ensuring young people and children under 22 for whom bus travel is essential are able to access the scheme from 31 January.  Everyone under the age of 22 and living in Scotland will be proactively encouraged to apply to access the scheme by the extensive marketing campaign which will now be launched nationally at a later date.  

Why the scheme is so important
At the same time, the introduction of free bus travel for under 22s will also reduce inequalities and advance equality of opportunity and outcome for young people and families as well as having the potential to help address child poverty by reducing household outgoings. Free bus travel supports the delivery of a Just Transition and removes financial barriers, giving young people more and better choices in work, education, health and social activities.

Research commissioned in October 2021 revealed nationwide support for the roll out of free bus travel amongst young people – with almost two-thirds (61%) agreeing that access to public transport will play a central role in the fight against climate change. One full double decker bus equates to removing 75 single occupancy cars from Scotland’s roads.

All delivery partners are committed to delivering the scheme in a way that is safe for children and young people and instils confidence in their parents and guardians. That is why parents or guardians will be required to apply on behalf of children under the age of 16 to ensure they can exercise their responsibility for their children’s safety.

Transport Scotland has also worked with Barnardo’s Scotland to make available additional training for bus drivers on child safeguarding in advance of the scheme’s launch. 

Application process
5-21 year olds living in Scotland will need a valid National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC to access free bus from 31 January. 

  1. Many young people will already have a NEC or Young Scot NEC but this will not allow them to access free bus travel. Everyone who is eligible will have to apply for a new or replacement card if they wish to use the scheme.
  2. The Improvement Service and National Entitlement Card Programme Office (NECPO), together with local authorities, are responsible for handling applications and issuing National Entitlement Cards (NEC and Young Scot NEC) which are used to access the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme.
  3. The scheme will use the existing application processes and will enable young people or their parents/guardians to apply either online or in person at council offices.
  4. Applications open on 10 January. All eligible children and young people can apply but we are working through our network of delivery partners and stakeholders to get messaging out, encouraging children and young people to apply at this time if they need to make essential journeys by bus.  
  5. A number of different methods will be available for 5–21 year olds to get their card to access free bus travel: online at GETYOURNEC.SCOT or through parentsportal.scot if it is used by the child’s school; via a local council where it is not possible to apply online; and, in some local council areas, schools are coordinating applications on behalf of their pupils.
  6. Young people aged 16-21 should apply themselves.
  7. Parents or guardians will be required to apply on behalf of 5-15 year olds.
  8. Children under the age of 5 do not need to apply as they already travel for free on commercial bus services without a card.

How you can support the launch:

  1. Use your social media platform to confirm that the scheme will go ahead and that everyone who wants to use it will need to apply for a card but encourage only those with essential travel requirements to apply while public health restrictions are in place.
  2. Respond to enquiries from the public, directing them to the Transport Scotland website which gives them information on the scheme and guidance on travel restrictions.
  3. Let people know that the scheme supports the adoption of sustainable travel behaviours early in life, and will also improve access to education, leisure, work and other opportunities as soon as we come out of restrictions.

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