Children and young people in regional, rural and remote NSW can access services, supports and opportunities.
The action needed
Reduce the impact of transport disadvantage on children, young people and their families by adequately funding rural, regional and remote community transport providers
Deliver place-based community transport solutions
In consultation with the sector, deliver all NSW transport assistance funds more directly to communities so that local groups can together come up with ways to deploy their community transport resources efficiently and sustainably.
Extend opportunities for young people in regional NSW to be supported to learn to drive
Fund evidence-based programs such as Driving Change that support young people in regional areas to learn to drive.
Urgently address health transport barriers in regional NSW for children and their families
Extend the Isolated Patient Transport Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS):
- Include community transport providers in eligible NSW areas.
- Include upfront payment to service providers and clients as an option in the Scheme.
- Expand the range of medical services covered by the scheme to include more flexibility regarding specialist mental health services and addiction treatment services.
- Undertake an awareness campaign encouraging health services and the community to make use of the service.
More work to make fares fairer in regional and remote NSW
Fairer bus fares would positively impact people who live in regional areas and who are more likely to experience poverty and hardship compared to their metropolitan counterparts.
- Move to a flatter fee structure for regional bus services
Why it is needed
The tyranny of distance means isolation and barriers to accessing social, educational and economic opportunities, services and supports.
However in NSW, community transport still does not meet the needs of regional and remote communities for physical access to supports, and people are missing out. We heard from the NSW community that meaningful access to transport can reduce social and economic exclusion, increase community and social inclusion, and indeed provide a way to gain support for digital connection.
We know that affordable housing, diversionary programs, mental health supports and early childhood education and care services are only going to help alleviate poverty and disadvantage if children and their families can access them. Access to transport is not an end in itself, but a crucial link. The lack of available and suitable transport options has a compounding effect on people experiencing disadvantage in rural and regional NSW.
People living in regional and remote NSW experience higher levels of illness compared to people living in metropolitan areas.2 Children and young people living in regional and remote areas are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice system.3 Despite this, people in rural and remote areas are less likely to access health and community support services.4
All children and young people have a right to be connected with affordable housing, family and community, health and learning. The NSW Government acknowledges that transport is an essential service that is crucial to ensuring participation.5
We have heard that access to transport in regional and rural areas is a major issue; it is insufficient, overcomplicated and under-funded. At present, poor access to transport is curtailing people’s opportunities, health and quality of life. Indeed, the absence of this link can even cause unemployment, ill-health, mental illness and poverty.
Children, young people and their families are particularly vulnerable to transport disadvantage and particularly negatively affected as they seek to access the community.6 A lack of transport can make impossible the employment and education necessary for young people to become independent, contribute to their communities and build a better quality of life.
There are at least nine state and federally funded transport assistance schemes operating in NSW. They are targeted at older people, people with disability, school students with disability, Veterans, isolated patients, people who are unwell and people who otherwise have limited or no access to public or private transport. Each have their own eligibility requirements of service users, and contractual obligations of service providers.
We have heard that this complicated system is inefficient and overly rigid, prescriptive and not flexible enough to address the diverse needs of communities and individuals accessing the service. Drawn out administrative processes are getting in the way of the provision of vital services.
Northern NSW Service Provider
NCOSS Regional Report, 2018
The real cost of service delivery
The relatively small and dispersed population of regional and remote communities, combined with the centralisation of health services, can make it very difficult to run a viable community transport business. In rural and remote areas, the cost of fleet maintenance is high, and current funds cannot be stretched to cover the cost of transporting people the distances they require.
Compounding this, the shut-down of the NSW Community Care Support Program and insufficient transport support funds in NDIS plans mean that charging people with disability the full gap of their travel costs may exclude them from accessing transport at all, particularly if they live in areas where distances are long. This is the case even with the recently announced $3 million to provide $10 per trip subsidy for NDIS trips. In regional areas, the blunt application of $10 to trips over large and varying distance will have little impact.
Far West NSW, 2018
“The major (medical) hubs for specialists are Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Ballina, Gold Coast and Brisbane. We have clients needing to travel to these areas every day… we are subsidised around $31 per trip by the government. The average cost of a trip to Coffs Harbour from Grafton is $176 return, trips to the Gold Coast and Brisbane can run as much as $500 return. Even with multiple people in cars the cost is still prohibitive.”
Transport Service Provider
Clarence Valley Northern NSW
Communities have the answer
The reality of living remote
Fairer fares in regional and remote NSW
There are a number of reasons that public transport fares vary according to distance or between areas, but there are some good reasons to make them more consistent. IPART has acknowledged that disparity between metropolitan public transport fares and those applied in rural and regional areas makes catching public transport in these areas less attractive. in recent times, fare structures on regional busses have been simplified and fares decreased, but more can be done.
For instance, in 2019 an adult could pay nearly $50 (maximum fare) to travel 126 sections in regional NSW, whereas the maximum bus fare in metropolitan Sydney is $4.61. By way of comparison, travelling by train from Newcastle to Sydney costs $8.96.
A move to an even flatter fee structure for regional bus services would positively impact people who live in regional areas and who are mote likely to experience poverty and hardship compared to their metropolitan counterparts.
Regional Transport Scheme in focus
We have heard that major improvements are required of the Isolated Patient Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) to ensure that all people travelling long distances for health services can access the support they need.
IPTAAS only covers drug and alcohol supports and inpatient mental illness to the closest specialist, despite these being significant health issues in regional areas, and health issues for which choice of support provider is important. Psychologists are not included in the program, further limiting access to services.
IPTAAS provides reimbursement only for public transport or private vehicles. This is a barrier for people who live in areas unserved by public transport, who have no car, and who are unable to pay the upfront costs of frequent long drives Further, failing to include Community Transport Providers as an eligible form of transport in IPTAAS excludes a source of income for these providers and source of transport for many.
IPTAAS is not generally well known and is underutilised.
“We generally provide fuel cards in the first instance to people who need to travel to specialist care and genuinely can’t put fuel in the tank, even though the person should be submitting a claim to IPTAAS after the trip for reimbursement. When you have people in communities on very low incomes they don’t necessarily have the $50 to $100 to fuel up. We let them know that IPTAAS is available, and that they can apply for a pre-payment if there’s more than 14 days notice… but we generally provide support on the first visit.
Does this work in practice? Not always! I also have concerns around “double dipping” and feel that some of the people we have provided fuel cards to then go on to make an IPTAAS claim too. By not including community transport in the range of services who can access IPTAAS this will continue.”
Wee Waa Community Care Service Inc.
- Thomas, J., Barraket, J., Wilson, C.K., Cook, K., Louie, Y.M., Holcombe-James, I., Ewing, S., and MacDonald, T. 2018, Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2018, RMIT University, Melbourne, for Telstra.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2017, Rural and Remote Health. Canberra (Available here) and National Rural Health Alliance. 2017, Fact Sheet: mental health in rural and remote Australia (Available here)
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2017, Rural and Remote Australians, Canberra (Available here)
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2016 Survey of Health Care, accessed 25 August 2018 (Available here)
- NSW Government. 2018, Transport for NSW Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2018-2022, Sydney: p.2
- Currie, G., Stanley, J. R. & Stanley, J. 2007, No way to go: transport and social disadvantage in Australian communities. Clayton Victoria Australia: Monash University Publishing.
- Australian Institute of Family Studies, The relationship between transport and disadvantage in Australia, (Available here)
- Australian Council of Social Service and the National Rural Health Alliance. 2013, A snapshot of poverty in regional and rural Australia, Canberra (Available here)
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2016, Census of Population and Housing, Enumerated data available at (Available here), accessed 3 September 2018
- Clapham, K., Hunter, K. Cullen, P. Helps, Y., Senserrick, T., Byrne, J., Harrison, J. & Ivers, R. Q. 2017, Addressing the barriers to driver licensing for Aboriginal people in New South Wales and South Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 41:3 pp 280 – 286