STAGECOACH LAUNCHES NEW INITIATIVE TO SUPPORT BUS PASSENGERS AND STAFF WITH MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
• 'Pledge to help' developed in partnership with Mental Health Action Group and Anxiety UK
• Enhanced training and awareness programmes to boost confidence in bus travel
• New support line for employees as part of drive to break down barriers
• Stagecoach initiative backed by Transport Minister Andrew Jones
Stagecoach today (Thursday 19 May) launched a new initiative to provide further support for bus passengers and staff with mental health conditions across the UK.
The UK’s biggest bus operator has announced a ‘Pledge to help’, to improve the experiences of employees and customers with mental health conditions, including enhanced training and awareness programmes and additional support for employees.
The company’s pledge has been welcomed by Mental Health Action Group and Anxiety UK and has the full support of Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP.
The Stagecoach pledge focuses on increasing the confidence of people with mental health conditions so they can use the bus without issue. It commits to providing enhanced training and awareness programmes to help boost confidence in bus travel, alongside a new support line for employees that will help to break down barriers.
Stagecoach has pledged to:
• Support the needs of customers and protect the rights of passengers and staff with mental health conditions by training managers to be caring in their approach towards managing staff and promote a culture of empathy throughout the company. An anonymous support line for staff will also be provided
• Help deliver a more positive and supportive attitude towards mental health issues by including specific education on mental health within training modules for all driving staff as part of the induction process, as well as ongoing driver training and awareness campaigns for all staff
• Introduce and promote improved travel assistance and support for customers with mental health conditions by working with local support groups and mental health groups to help break down the barriers faced by passengers with mental health conditions and encourage them to have the confidence to use the bus
The pledge coincides with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and is welcomed by Stagecoach UK Bus Managing Director, Robert Montgomery. It is supported by all Stagecoach UK Bus companies.
Robert Montgomery said, “Everyone involved in transport has a responsibility to work together to improve the travel experience for people with disabilities, and that includes those with mental health conditions.
“This involves the training we give our staff, the policies and practices we have in place to deal with our passengers’ needs and the relationships we develop with local support groups. We invest millions of pounds every year in making our services more accessible to all passengers with disabilities and we work hard to deliver the best possible services and information for all of our customers.
“We have already invested in a sector-leading driver training programme, which includes employees receiving dedicated guidance on the challenges faced by people with disabilities and how to help them.
“We look forward to building on the relationships we have with support groups and charities across the UK and will strive to make the service we offer to passengers with mental health conditions even better.”
The pledge follows the company’s recent attendance at the Mental Health and Transport Summit in London. The event, hosted by the Mental Health Action Group and Anxiety UK, and attended by Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP, heard from passengers with mental health conditions about their experiences whilst using public transport.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said, “We've called on the transport industry to be bold and ambitious in improving support for mental health, and it's fantastic to see Stagecoach showing how operators can make a huge difference to people’s everyday lives.
"We have made monumental strides in the way we think about and treat mental illness in this country in the last few years, but we must accelerate progress even further. My Department is playing its part by producing an Accessibility Action Plan later this year and will continue making progress on this vital issue."
The pledge fits within the company’s existing Customer Charter, “Making you welcome; helping you travel with confidence.” The charter offers support to passengers and staff who have a range of disabilities, promising to provide a welcoming travel environment and treat customers with respect. It promises to make reasonable adjustments to meet the individual needs of customers.
Niki Glazier, Mental Health Action Group’s Co-ordinator said "We congratulate Stagecoach on the way they have embraced the Summit's Call to Action and are delighted that customers across the UK who are experiencing a mental health condition will be able to expect a helpful and supportive response from Stagecoach staff.”
Nicky Lidbetter, Chief Executive of Anxiety UK said: “It is really pleasing to see that Stagecoach is not only going to be supporting its passengers that are living with mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, but also its staff. These two measures will go a long way towards tackling the stigma that exists around mental health whilst also helping to break down the barriers that many with anxiety and depression face when making journeys by public transport. It is my hope that other companies will swiftly follow suite and adopt Stagecoach’s good practice”.
Stagecoach’s bus companies across the country offer dedicated helplines for people with disabilities and provide Journey Assistance Cards so that passengers are able to make staff aware of their needs easily. Further information can be found at: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/customer-charter
Stagecoach, which operates around 8,500 buses and coaches across the UK, has invested more than £1billion in past 10 years to introduce more accessible buses and coaches to help wheelchair users and people with specific mobility requirements.
The company has dedicated disability helplines and worked with a number of groups over the last few years to help improve the experience of passengers with disabilities.
In November 2015 the company announced the backing of the Whizz-Kidz ‘Get on-Board’ campaign which has called for improvements to infrastructure, greater awareness and respect for young wheelchair users.