At the Living Wage Champion Awards, National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT) was recognised for its leadership in supporting local communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. From the start of the 2020 lockdown NEAT has worked together with partners to provide much needed support for NHS heroes and vulnerable citizens across the West Midlands. Its leadership, kindness and resilience over the past year was described as ‘inspirational,’ leading to the ‘Covid-19 Stronger Together’ trophy being awarded by the Living Wage Foundation.
When schools closed in March 2020, NEAT worked with Birmingham City Council to switch services that would normally deliver special needs home to school transport to instead deliver thousands of food parcels to families and individuals who were shielding. Over the course of just a few months 45,000 food parcels were delivered to some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable families, as well as learning packs for children who were unable to get online.
NEAT also operates the local Ring and Ride service, used by West Midlands residents who are unable to use mainstream public transport due to mobility or social isolation issues. With many customers staying at home the operator saw an opportunity to repurpose its fleet to run free NHS staff shuttles between key transport hubs and hospitals across the region. Over 40,000 trips were completed and, said the operator, made a real difference to NHS heroes, many of whom developed friendships with the drivers.
Ruth, who works for the NHS and was a regular user of the shuttle service, explained: “I didn’t meet a single member of the team that wasn’t cheerful, tried to make us laugh or was just really lovely. The NEAT team is a very special team and I hope they all realise how much they are appreciated because they provide a wonderful service.”
In addition, NEAT ran hundreds of dedicated Covid vaccination shuttles for vulnerable customers during the vaccination rollout and Forrest Medical Centre in Coventry was provided with a dedicated minibus and driver to transport nurses to vulnerable residents in the community. This additional support meant nurses were able to provide vital flu vaccinations to those at home, saving them valuable time during an incredibly busy and difficult period and helping them to complete their programme ahead of schedule.
Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, the Living Wage movement has never been stronger – we’ve continued to grow, welcoming our 7,000th employer, and last night we came together to recognise some of the outstanding work these employers have done. This year has been defined by employers who have gone above and beyond what is expected to support those around them, showing that sustainability and success need not be mutually exclusive, and that in a crisis, we are stronger together. National Express Accessible Transport’s work over the last year embodies the core values of the Living Wage movement, and I congratulate them on their deserved award.”
Vinay Parmar, Managing Director, National Express Accessible Transport, said: “As a real Living Wage employer National Express Accessible Transport is always trying to do the best for our employees and within the communities we serve, so I am delighted that we’ve been given the Living Wage Champion’s Covid-19 Stronger Together award. This really does show that we are stronger together, and I think that is particularly true over this past year or so. By looking after each other and working closely with our partners we’ve been able to provide some amazing support in our communities and I’m incredibly proud of everybody involved.”