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"I was scared to get the bus for the first time"

Getting out and about independently in the community is an important aspect of self-building a life and is a key goal of personalisation. We found that there was a big push by local authorities towards supporting people to gain the skills and confidence of using a bus.

However, one of the key challenges facing the success of personalisation is transport. Bus services are under real threat in many areas. The lack of bus services, particularly in the rural areas we looked at, was a major real concern for people. Travelling by train, to reach other more distant locations to see friends was also difficult for many because of the cost. Bus passes only allow people to travel in their own local authority area [in Scotland].

Another challenge is that some people we spoke to have had negative experiences and abuse on buses. This includes a lack of patience from drivers and other passengers. One parent and advocate we spoke to, James, said it can also be an issue if a bus needs to use a different route. This had arisen with his son using the bus and had caused his son to be confused and fearful.

While these challenges remain, we did hear from people who are travelling independently by bus. This was a new skill many had learnt after the day centres had closed, and they had to get about to new activities. It was vital to their social networks: 'Someone helped me get on the bus for the first time and now I can do it on my own. I can travel round [Scotland local authority] on my own now to meet up with all my friends.' (Sarah)

But building the confidence to travel by bus can take a while. Also, it can take a while for families to have confidence in someone travelling on their own. Some parents were actively involved in proving support. Sarah said that she 'was scared to get the bus on my own, and mum took me on the bus ... I done it on my own now'. She explained:

"Because my speech is not good, that's why I was scared to get the bus for the first time, and mum took me, and then I just got the bus by myself. ... So I can get the bus by myself to have a day to meet my boyfriend, now my mum trusts me." (Sarah)

James, who had the concerns over his son travelling independently, spoke of the need for technology such as a smart phone or a device on his arm that allows him see where his son is. His son was also able to use an alarm on this device when there was an issue such as when a bus has to go a different route.

What learning is involved?

Independent travel was an area where people spoke about the importance of practising and gaining confidence as much as learning the skills of planning routines and managing when something unexpected happened. Being able to travel opened up opportunities for further learning.

What more can be done?

Local authorities could recognise the importance of considering travel when planning their social care market. Bus companies could provide more disability training that recognises the specific needs of people with learning disabilities.