Our 'Pledge to help' customers and staff living with mental health conditions

19 May 2016

We’ve just launched a new initiative to increase our support of bus passengers and staff with mental health conditions.

As the UK’s biggest bus operator, our ‘Pledge to help’ aims to improve bus travel experiences for customers with mental health conditions to allow them to travel with confidence. We’ll provide enhanced training and awareness programmes for all employees to help break down barriers, and we’re committed to showing our support for staff living with mental health issues.

Our pledge has been welcomed by Mental Health Action Group and Anxiety UK and has the full backing of Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP.

We’ve 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 customer 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 comes at the same time as Mental Health Awareness Week and is supported by all Stagecoach UK Bus companies.

Stagecoach UK Bus Managing Director, Robert Montgomery said, “Everyone 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 and 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.”

We recently went to the Mental Health and Transport Summit in London, hosted by the Mental Health Action Group and Anxiety UK. During the event we heard from passengers with mental health conditions about their experiences while using public transport.

Speaking in support of our pledge, Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP 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.”

Our new pledge fits well with our current Customer Charter, “Making you welcome; helping you travel with confidence.” The charter offers support to our passengers and staff who have a range of disabilities. It promises we’ll provide a welcoming travel environment, treat our customers with respect and make reasonable adjustment to meet the individual needs of our customers.

Niki Glazier, Mental Health Action Group’s Coordinator 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 conditions 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.”

To make bus travel as accessible to as many customers as we can, over the past few years we’ve:

  • invested £1billion to introduce more accessible buses and coaches to help wheelchair users and people with specific mobility requirements
  • provided dedicated disability helplines and worked with many groups to help improve the experience of our passengers with disabilities
  • shown our support for the Whizz-Kidz ‘Get on Board!’ campaign, which called for improvements to infrastructure, greater awareness and respect for young wheelchair users.