We often take for granted how we get around the city, whether this is by driving, walking or public transport. For some, it is not such an easy process, which is where Independent Travel Training (ITT) comes in.
ITT is run by Leeds City Council’s Passenger Transport Team who specialise in transporting people who would otherwise find it difficult to access vital services such as care centres, community activity groups and schools. ITT supports young people and adults with recognised learning difficulties or disabilities to learn to make particular journeys independently, be that a walking route or involving the use of public transport.
The training has been designed to increase the learner’s confidence and independence, allowing them to take gradual steps towards making the journey on their own. In addition, spending on bespoke transport assistance is significantly reduced.
Lesley* used ITT to gain more independence. She has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
“It’s very important to me to have my independence and not rely on other people helping me all the time”
“The travel training has been really good and successful for me. I didn’t like it on the minibus and find it much better traveling by myself. Before I did the training I struggled in remembering how to get to different places and getting on the bus because I use a wheelchair all the time when I am outside.”
She has been travelling independently for the last two months and has been able to go into town two to three times a week since the training to go shopping and meet friends.
How does it work?
The process begins with one of the team’s Assessment Officers visiting the learner to evaluate their capabilities and identify any barriers to them travelling independently through observation as they travel the journey together. For adults, this has typically involved a journey from the learner’s home to a day centre. The Assessment Officer will look at what’s involved in the journey and the best way to support them. Following assessment a learner is generally assigned a Travel Buddy who will support them on a 1:1 basis as they become familiar with and confident in making the journey safely by themselves. As they grow in confidence, the level of support is reduced. The final stage involves the learner being ‘shadowed’ by one of the services Independent Travel Training Coordinators who observes the learner making the journey without any help. If this stage is successful, they are then signed off but the team are always there if additional support is needed in the future.
John Bosworth, Assessment Officer, sees it as a great way for learners to gain their independence, confidence and life skills;
“We’re often accused of ITT being a cost cutting exercise – but the main focus is on the individual gaining their independence, more control over their life and in some cases, a healthier lifestyle. ITT can involve a walking journey as well as public transport.”
Before embarking on ITT, Mariana* used to travel by taxi. She didn’t enjoy this because she wanted to be able to travel by herself. Her journey was straight through from LS17 to LS14 and she did not think she was able to make this on her own before the training.
“I learnt the routes to the centre and how to get back home safely, how to cross the roads safely, how to stay safe when out and about. I also learned about the safe places in Leeds City Centre. I feel more confident now that I have had the travel training, I don’t go anywhere else on my own but would like to some time”.
So what’s changed for Passenger Transport?
Where travel has previously often meant arranging private transport (such as a taxi service) for passenger transportation, John says ITT will now be considered for each case.
“One of the main barriers we face is not from the individual but the carer’s who haven’t seen this as a viable option for them. We encourage them to give it a try, and let the person decide whether they can do it or not. It doesn’t always mean that ITT is the best way but when it is, it can make a huge impact on the life of the individual as well as their family”.
Referrals are usually made by Social Workers, but the team are raising awareness by going into centres to talk about the training.
“It’s something Social Workers and Care Managers need to be aware of as ITT will be looked at as a first option concerning transport. It’s difficult as we have adults who have always used transport and now we’re asking them to think differently. However, we shouldn’t be taking away independence because it’s an easier option.”
*names have been changed