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Applications begin for free bus travel for under-22s in Scotland
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Applications are open for 5-21 year olds living in Scotland to access free bus travel - with a focus on children and young people who need to make essential bus journeys.

Given current public health guidance to reduce contact and mixing, the full marketing launch of the scheme – which will benefit nearly a million young people in Scotland – will take place at a later date.

However, applications are open now with the scheme due to begin on 31 January as planned, in recognition of the fact that some young people need to travel for essential purposes – for example, as key workers or for education or health or care reasons.

Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said:

“I’m delighted that the under-22s free bus travel scheme will go live as planned on 31 January, with applications open now for children and young people to get their new or replacement national entitlement card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC.

“The current phase of the pandemic means that we are encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible. But there are many essential reasons for children and young people to travel by bus and I am keen that they benefit from this scheme at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, we are asking that only those for whom bus travel is essential apply at this time. This will help to minimise pressure on local councils, also impacted by the pandemic, which will be processing applications and responding to queries.

“Public health must always come first. The approach we are taking will enable children, young people and families who will potentially benefit most from free bus travel to access it from the end of January. It will also ensure that when we are able to fully publicise the scheme, it will help bus services recover from the impacts of the pandemic and encourage children and young people to travel sustainably.”

Sarah Gadsden, Chief Executive Improvement Service said:

“The Improvement Service is delighted to be supporting the expansion of the National Entitlement Card scheme to provide free bus travel for young people aged 5 to 21. We have been working closely with local government to ensure that the application process is as easy as possible for young people, parents and guardians and for council staff.  Local councils, like many other public services, are impacted by the latest wave of COVID. By asking only those who make essential journeys by bus to apply at this time, it will help those most in need access vital public services.  We look forward to everyone who is eligible applying when restrictions come to an end”.

Kirsten Urquhart, Chief Executive (Interim) Young Scot:

“We are excited about the positive impact that free bus travel will have on the lives of young people. The application stage is now open, allowing young people who need to travel by bus for essential reasons, to get a new or replacement National Entitlement Card or Young Scot National Entitlement Card. Once they have their new card, they’ll be able to travel by bus for free.”

Background

Visit gov.scot/coronavirus for the latest advice on staying and travelling safe during COVID-19.

The Scottish Government is partnering with the Improvement Service, the National Entitlement Card Programme Office and Young Scot to deliver the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme. Information about the scheme and how to apply is available on the Transport Scotland website. Only children and young people who need to make essential journeys by bus are being encouraged to apply at this time, with others being asked to wait until the situation with the pandemic improves. All those eligible will be proactively encouraged to apply to access the scheme by an extensive marketing campaign which will be launched nationally at a later date.

Local councils, the Improvement Service and National Entitlement Card Programme Office are responsible for the card management, application and renewal processes for the National Entitlement Card and offer a range of ways to apply. A number of different methods are available for 5–21 year olds to get their card to access free bus travel; online at GETYOURNEC.SCOT or through parentsportal.scot, if it is used by the child’s school; via a local council where it is not possible to apply online; and, in some local council areas, schools are coordinating applications on behalf of their pupils.  Local council websites provide more information on their application processes.

Research commissioned by Transport Scotland in October 2021 revealed nationwide support for the roll out of free bus travel for the country’s young people – with almost two-thirds (61%) of young Scots agreeing that access to public transport will play a central role in the fight against climate change.

Parents or guardians must provide approval for children aged between 5-15 to access the scheme by applying for a new National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC on their behalf. Young people aged 16-21 should apply themselves.

Young people who are over 11 years old can choose to apply for the Young Scot NEC or a standard NEC. If they choose a Young Scot NEC, they can use it to save money with in-person and online discounts – with over 500 discounts in Scotland and over 100,000 deals across Europe. It also acts as legal proof of age. What’s more, young people can collect points by taking part in activities and exchanging these for Rewards. Find out more at young.scot/card.

As is common practice for changes to online systems, GETYOURNEC.SCOT and parentsportal.scot have undergone a ‘soft launch’ ahead of applications formally opening on 10 January to ensure the updated systems work as expected and identify areas for potential enhancement to improve the overall customer experience.