Social and health value of community transport in Norfolk

Project summary

Project details

Full project title: Research into the social and health value of community transport in Norfolk

Sponsor: Norfolk County Council

Centre for Transport and Society (CTS) Project Manager: Ian Shergold

Team members: Richard Kimberlee, Charles Musselwhite (CTS), Graham Parkhurst (CTS), Kiron Chatterjee (CTS), Matthew Jones

Start date: October 2011

Finish date: June 2012

Project summary

In an attempt to better understand the potential value of investing in Community Transport (CT) from a health and wellbeing perspective, Norfolk County Council (NCC) tendered in the summer of 2011 for research looking specifically at such benefits. In response, a team from Centre for Transport and Society and the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (now known as the College of Health, Science and Society) at UWE Bristol has been commissioned to undertake a 'return on investment' exercise using proven tools and methods from the social investment appraisal discipline, in a project drawing on expertise from both transport and health perspectives.

The UWE Bristol team is deploying a a range of data collection approaches, including interviews, questionnaires and focus groups. It is engaging with examples of both the smaller parish-based community car schemes, as well as larger operators in the county in the data collection exercises.

The intention is to work with a number of CT schemes in Norfolk, as well as residents in an area that doesn't currently have such transport available, helping to illuminate whether regular use of community transport might effect health and wellbeing. Although this will be a relatively small project, the team endeavours to develop an appraisal mechanism that will be robust, and credible (with the caveat of course that it will be less extensive than the government's full 'social return on investment' methodology*).

This 'lighter touch' process will use established, valid, and reliable health and wellbeing indicators. It will then consider the costs and measured benefits of the schemes chosen for analysis, with the running costs of the schemes from April 2011 to 2012 quantified following the provision of appropriate cost data by the participating CT schemes. Financial proxies for indicators will be utilised in order to include the values of those benefits excluded from markets on the same terms as those used in markets.

The findings from the various data collection exercises, and from the return on investment calculations will be written up in a project report to be delivered in the summer of 2012. The methods used, particularly in respect of the return on investment calculations will be clearly identified, to allow the exercise to be repeatable and transferable. The research team will also disseminate results through the newly-formed Norfolk CT Forum and, if possible, engage with an appropriate forum of health professionals in Norfolk to disseminate material on health and wellbeing benefits, and the 'return on investment' methodology and outcome.

Stakeholder interviews were completed before Christmas 2011, and provided some specific themes for the project team to concentrate their investigation on. These themes were further explored in a workshop with 20 plus Community Transport scheme operators, and eight users held in Norfolk in January 2012. The main 'user' questionnaire, and an concurrent Operator data collection exercise are being deployed in late February, early March 2012.

*The 'Social Return on Investment' approach was developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Cabinet Office, as a tool to capture such benefits.

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