We are rooted in the heart of the communities we serve. Aside from providing vital transport services, we have a duty to be a good neighbour and manage our impacts on the environment.
In every place we operate, we maintain links with local stakeholders to engage them on relevant matters. For example, we seek to engage local councillors and community groups when planning changes to services. This engagement helps create a more receptive environment for change. We assess the strength of these relationships through holding annual stakeholder surveys.
Our community engagement activities across the Group continue to focus particularly on supporting young people. The National Express Foundation, in its fifth year, continues to support young people through educational bursaries and grants to community groups. Following an increase in funding from the Group, the Foundation was able to support an even greater number of young people in 2016. By the end of last year over 11,000 young people had benefited from grants totalling £535,000 since the launch in 2012.
As part of its Youth Promise, UK Coach encourages its employees to spend a day volunteering for one of our partner charities. Uptake has been encouraging with 146 people – nearly 10% of the workforce – giving their time in 2016. Youth Promise partners The Prince’s Trust, Whizz-Kidz and Scouts have now been joined by the Girl Guides. Like Scouts, this partnership provides Guiding groups with 25% discount on coach travel.
In UK Bus, our garages continued their partnerships with a local charity of their choice. This provides a focus for local fundraising activity, raising just over £10,000 between them in 2016. Our UK Employee Charity Panel, which supports employees who carry out fundraising or volunteer for community groups, made 56 awards during the year.
ALSA has launched a programme to encourage the integration of people with disabilities through training, inclusion and employment. Called ‘What are you capable of?’, it aims to help disabled people to fully develop their professional competences and demonstrate their abilities. ALSA directly employs the individuals through agreements with organisations that work with disabled people. During 2016, 11 courses have been delivered to 93 students, of which 46 went on to be employed by the Company.
In North America, our School Bus operations reach across 34 US states and four Canadian provinces. They are a highly visible part of the community and our employees give up their time to help local causes. This includes Stuff the Bus initiatives and offering transport for Special Olympics events. We also donate redundant buses to support local projects, such as the Huntsville City Schools Summer Feeding programme in Alabama, which provides free meals to children during the summer holidays.
Across the Group, we made charitable donations totalling £562,125 (2015: £530,431).