Written evidence submitted by Barnardo’s (BUS0056)


About Barnardo’s


Barnardo’s is the UK’s largest national children’s charity. In 2020-21 we supported 382,872 children, young people, parents, and carers, through nearly 800 services and partnerships. We deliver a wide range of services which includes providing family support and early intervention, supporting children, young people and families through fostering and adoption services, helping children affected by sexual abuse and exploitation, helping young people entering employment, education, and training, and supporting young people and families affected by drug and alcohol use.


About Barnardo’s response


In this response to the Transport Committee Barnardo’s sets out the positive impact free bus passes have on the lives of care experienced. This insight is drawn from Barnardo's Care Journeys, a group of programmes that aim to support care experienced young people in to a “positive destination” in their lives, alongside supporting them to have their voices heard and create real change in their communities.


While this evidence is outside the questions set in the Call for evidence for the National bus strategy: one year on Inquiry,  in the Bus Back Better: national bus strategy for England it sets out that “Buses can be key to levelling-up; users are disproportionately from less advantaged social groups and places. Improved services will strengthen communities, sustain town centres and connect disabled and isolated people.” [1] We hope that you will agree that this is useful information for your committee.


Care leavers


As a group, care leavers often have much poorer outcomes in adult life than their peers. They are more likely not to be in education, employment, or training (NEET). 39% of care leavers aged 19-21 years are NEET[2] compared to around 13% of 18–24-year-olds overall[3]. Care leavers are more also likely to be homeless[4] and take their own life.[5]


On average young people now live in their family home until the age of 23.[6] However, for more than 10,000 young people who leave the care system every year[7], the expectation is that they become independent at the age of 18, or sometimes even younger. By the age of 19-21, one in three (35%) of care leavers live independently.[8]


In October 2018, the UK Government launched the Care Leaver Covenant for England[9]. This allows public, private, and voluntary sector organisations to pledge support, through work experience, apprenticeships and free or discounted goods and services.


In response to a parliamentary question on the merits of free bus passes for care leavers in February 2018, the now Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi answered: “We recognise that many care leavers struggle to cope with the financial challenges of living independently at a young age and that support to meet transport costs would help care leavers to engage in education, employment and training. In developing the care leaver covenant, we will explore with the Department of Transport and private bus and rail companies the scope to secure free or discounted travel for care leavers.” [10]


Transport for Freedom Campaign


Barnardo's Care Journeys joined with Triangles and Carefree to bring together 25 Care experienced young people and provide them with a free bus pass as part of a research project in Cornwall, to demonstrate how impactful such a measure could be on care experienced lives. One care experienced participant explained that "The bus pass just made me feel free, it's about freedom... getting out there. It gave me hope."[11] The research found that 100% of care leavers taking part stated at some point that they had to choose between food, or paying for the bus to go to work[12] 100% of care leavers taking part said having access to a bus pass improved their mental health and wellbeing. [13] And 70% of care leavers taking part said that having a bus pass meant they could access education, employment, and training easier. [14]


These findings led the report to recommend providing care leavers with free bus travel to help tackle social isolation and that local authorities should offer free bus travel as part of their local offer to care leavers, as a means of tackling loneliness and help keep young people connected.


This has been offered in various places across England, including Greater Manchester which provides free travel for Care leavers aged 18-21, that live in Greater Manchester.[15]


April 2022



[1] Bus Back Better: National Bus Strategy for England https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/980227/DfT-Bus-Back-Better-national-bus-strategy-for-England.pdf

[2] Department of Education (2013/2021) Statistics on children under local authority care at national and local authority level. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-looked-after-children

[3] Office for National Statistics (2021) ‘Young People not in education, employment or training (NEET)’ Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peoplenotinwork/unemployment/datasets/youngpeoplenotineducationemploymentortrainingneettable1

[4] Cardiff University and Crisis (2014) ‘Nations apart? Experiences of single homeless people across Great Britain’. https://www.crisis.org.uk/media/20608/crisis_nations_apart_2014.pdf

[5] Department of Health (2012) ‘Preventing suicide in England. A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/430720/Preventing-Suicide-.pdf

[6] Office for National Statistics (2019) ‘Milestones: journeying into adulthood.’

[7] HM Government (2013) ‘Care Leaver Strategy – A cross-departmental strategy for young people leaving care’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/266484/Care_Leaver_Strategy.pdf 

[8] The Department for Education. Children looked after in England including adoptions, reporting year 2020.  https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoptions/2020

[9] Care leaver Covenant: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-new-scheme-launched-to-support-young-people-leaving-care

[10] https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2018-01-30/125695

[11] Transport for Freedom Campaign Report: https://www.barnardos.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-04/Transport%20For%20Freedom%20Campaign%20Findings%20Report.pdf

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Free bus travel for care leavers