Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund
Name of Grant(s):
Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund
Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund
Legal power used:
This grant funding was made available through powers conferred by Sections 126 and 127 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.
The Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Funds were developed in response to the introduction of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. The Scottish Government introduced two separate funds to support the taxi sector:
- Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund (announced 9 December 2020 and launched 25 January 2021) and;
- Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Driver and Operator Support Fund (announced 28 April 2021 as part of the SNP First Steps election manifesto and launched 2 June 2021).
They were established to provide support to taxi drivers and operators who experienced significant challenges as a result of restrictions introduced to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The closure of key sectors on which the taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) trade relied on such as the hospitality and tourism industries, as well as the night time economy, led to a reduced demand for the service they provide, leading to reduced revenue and profitability as well as widely reported challenges in meeting fixed costs.
This was reinforced by data collected by Transport Scotland which highlighted that use of all types of public transport had fallen significantly since March 2020 driven by home working requirements, travel restrictions and reduced public confidence. Data from the re-opening of the economy following the period of lockdown restrictions in Spring 2020 identified that there was a significant lag between the economy re-opening and journeys by public transport showing a significant increase suggesting that depressed demand for taxi and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) was likely to continue beyond the loosening of restrictions.
The Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund was a one-off grant of £1,500 for each individual licensed taxi or private hire driver. The eligibility criteria for the scheme was:
- Taxi or private hire drivers licensed for the period 9 October 2020 to at least 31 January 2021 and;
- The applicant needed to confirm that they had, up to 31 December 2020, experienced loss of income (50% of turnover, compared with 2019). incurred overhead costs and expenses, and that they were available for work as a taxi or private hire driver.
Many taxi operators were ineligible for UK Government self-employment support funding (as they became self-employed since April 2019). However they may have been eligible for a £4,000 one-off payment from the Scottish Government’s Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund if they became self-employed on or after 6 April 2019 but before 17 March 2020 or became self-employed between 1 October 2018 and 6 April 2019 but are ineligible for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
Nevertheless taxi and PHV operators specific did not receive funding from the Scottish Government during the pandemic even though they had incurred the majority of the overheads associated with operating a taxi and/or PHVs such as purchase and maintenance of vehicles as well as paying for fuel, vehicle licensing and insurance costs. In recognition of the additional costs paid out by taxi operators, the majority of whom are self-employed, and had no other means of income, the Scottish Government separately established a fund designed to specifically support taxi operators.
For the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund, taxi and PHV drivers were eligible for a separate grant of £1,500 (who had previously received a grant from the Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund) and taxi operators were eligible for grants of up to £15,000. The eligibility criteria for the scheme was:
- An individual or company holding a valid taxi or private hire vehicle licence as at 3 June 2021;
- One claim per vehicle, generally and in particular where a licence is held jointly by a number of individuals; and
- The operator must have experienced loss of income (50% of turnover, compared with 2019) and incurred overhead costs and expenses (confirmed by self-certification).
Each fund was administered by local authorities and delivered in the form of one-off payments. They were not intended to replace lost income. Their objectives were to assist taxi drivers (83% of which are estimated to be self-employed) and operators to remain financially viable while restrictions were in place.
The extraordinary measures taken by the Scottish Government to protect the right to life and right to health for the people of Scotland throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have placed unprecedented pressures on Scotland’s economy and business community. Health protection regulations introduced by the Scottish Government required certain businesses to close or placed specific restrictions on their operations at different times between March 2020 and August 2021. Many others were impacted by significant reductions in demand due to these restrictions.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has spent £4.3 billion in providing direct financial support to those businesses impacted by Covid-19 restrictions and regulation. As the impacts of restrictions were felt differently across the business community varying according to factors such as sector and location, a range of different funding streams were developed to target financial support towards specific sectors or types of business based on the challenges they were experiencing as a result of the pandemic. Given the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19 it was necessary to develop financial support schemes at pace to ensure that funds were distributed rapidly in the interests of preventing business closures and preserving jobs.
The variable impact of the pandemic on different demographic groups in Scotland and the inequalities created by this are well understood. Throughout the pandemic the Scottish Government has taken measures to mitigate these inequalities where possible. In line with its responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, in developing the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Funds, the Scottish Government has considered how it can eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. In doing so, the Scottish Government drew on a wide range of sources to understand the impact of restrictions on businesses on those with protected characteristics including statistics published by the Scottish Government, the Office of National Statistics, Department for Transport, as well as insights from the Policy Exchange, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, Government Office for Science and the Campaign for Better Transport.
Every effort is made to ensure that Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA) are published timeously. However, the speed at which it has been necessary to ensure mechanisms are in place for supporting businesses impacted by Covid-19 restrictions has resulted in delays to completing EQIAs for a number of business support funds.
Key Findings - impact assessment of benefits and/or disadvantages.
As part of this EQIA process the Scottish Government has considered protected characteristics both in terms of the demographic profile of the taxi sector as well as those who are users of the service.
Through the pandemic, demand for taxis has reduced significantly with operators reporting an 80% drop in bookings month upon month with significant numbers of licensed drivers choosing to leave the industry. Those remaining in the sector, mainly self-employed - have reported reduced income. By distributing financial support to the taxi sector, the Scottish Government acted to mitigate the impact of these regulations in order to support taxi drivers and operators to remain financially viable while restrictions were in place. In doing so, this assessment finds that the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Funds advanced equalities by supporting a sector that disproportionately impacts on the lives of those with protected characteristics.
Operators are generally responsible for vehicle purchase and running costs (which employee-drivers are not) and are critical to sustaining the ongoing viability of the industry by ensuring that there are sufficient vehicles to meet demand once this returns to something approaching pre-pandemic levels. Therefore the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Funds were not only advancing equality by preserving the livelihoods of those employed and/or own the assets within the sector (the majority of drivers are reported to be older males with a significant number from an ethnic minority background), but also the users of taxi services with a range of data suggests that women, disabled people and older people are more likely to use taxis/PHVs. Taxi drivers perform services from private journeys to NHS patient transport, school and vulnerable children transport services and vulnerable adult transport services.
While the Scottish Government specifically established a range of funds e.g. the Strategic Framework Business Fund to support businesses in meeting overhead costs associated with operating from premises, it is important to recognise that many businesses impacted by restrictions introduced through the Regulations were not eligible for any support available through the UK or Scottish Governments hence the introduction of sector specific schemes. Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers were considered to be businesses in the supply chain of closed or restricted sectors and therefore not eligible for many of the main Scottish Government funds awards (because they were contingent on the Rateable Value of the premises from which the business operated).
Evidence suggests that individuals with specific protected characteristics are over-represented across this cohort of businesses, for instance research by the UK Government’s Department for Transport on the demographic profile of the taxi and private hire vehicle sector shows that the impact of restrictions on this sector has a disproportionate impact on older men and individuals from minority ethnic groups.
Both of these taxi funding scheme did not involve an application form process. Each eligible taxi driver and/or taxi operator was contacted by the local authorities to brief them on their potential entitlement and invite them to provide relevant supporting information. We acted to eliminate discrimination to recipients of both our funds by providing extended deadlines to allow taxi drivers and operators to apply. We also asked local authorities to signpost their helpline numbers on the webpages which they were using to host the self-declaration forms we asked taxi operators to complete for this fund to ensure that operators were aware of available support.
Fostering Good Relations
Taxis and PHVs play an important role in local transport. They enable people to make connections - including to other transport modes - especially out of hours (benefiting the night-time economy) and more rural areas (e.g. semi-rural areas only served by infrequent buses). Taxi and private hire services are “essential for many passengers with disabilities and residents of rural communities, and play an important social role in enhancing the public transport system and facilitating social inclusion.”
Among all forms of public transport, taxis provide a convenient and accessible form of transport for passengers with disabilities. Taxis can potentially provide door-to-door service, operate when requested, and allow for personal attention and care by the driver if required. The industry is an essential enabler for several different groups with protected characteristics to interact with others thus preventing social exclusion. Taxis and PHVs provide services from straightforward local transport, taxi buses, service to schools, hospitals, social work departments, and transporting the infirm and ambulant disabled. They have also played a key role in ensuring key workers can get to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In providing financial support to the taxi and private hire sector to remain financially viable during the restrictions, the Scottish Government is therefore acting to foster good relations within and between groups with protected characteristics.
Age: Older People and Children and Young People
The average age of a driver in England was 50 years old with 21% of drivers being aged under 40. Those aged 60 or over make up 25% of drivers. This means that the taxi sector has an aging workforce. While the grants introduced by the Scottish Government were made available primarily to support the sector, rather than ensure there was no shortage of drivers we do know from Transport Scotland statistics that numbers of taxi drivers have fallen, however there is not sufficient evidence to confirm if this equates to a shortage across Scotland. However for the older people and disabled users who rely heavily on the door-to-door service taxis and PHVs provide, as it is often the only or most accessible and convenient way to access local services a shortage or even just a fall in taxi drivers number could mean a loss of ability to access services, activities in which to maintain independence, leading to the possibility of social isolation.
The impact of restrictions on the taxi and PHV sector also has an indirect impact on young people. Taxis provide an essential service for school pupils who need to travel between their school and home. These school pupils may include young people with disabilities and special needs.
Again this demonstrates how taxi and PHV sector service are important for a range of age cohorts.
Sex: Men and Women
While the impact of the pandemic on the taxi sector is disproportionately on men in terms of the labour market (the majority of taxi drivers in 2019/20 were male (98%), there has also been an impact on women. On average, women made more taxi or PHV trips than men (12 trips per person per year compared with 10 trips per person per year respectively). Women aged 70+ made 61% more trips than men of this age (13 trips per person per year compared with 8 trips per person per year respectively).
Taxis and PHVs have a particularly important role in the night-time economy, ensuring the public return home safely. According to the ONS Crime Statistics half of all women feel unsafe walking alone after nightfall in a busy public place, such as a high street or railway station. The same proportion of women also felt unsafe walking alone on a quiet street near their home at night. Women finishing work in the hours of darkness including those classed as key workers may rely on taxis to get home in the dark and could have been be faced with a choice of putting themselves in a vulnerable position just to remain in employment. Taxis are therefore often a lifeline for getting home.
While national data has suggested that Minority Ethnic Groups have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to pre-existing disparities, there is a lack of significant data with respect to the taxi sector available and therefore no conclusions can be made.
Latest figures show that of the 9,928 licensed taxis in Scotland, 4,951 (50%) are wheelchair accessible, however the proportion of wheelchair accessible vehicles varies across different authority areas.
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) highlighted in their position paper on taxis and PHVs that “Taxis and private hire vehicles are one of the most popular modes of transport for disabled people after the private motor car. Disabled people use taxis more than non-disabled people despite more of them living in relative poverty. Taxis and PHVs provide a door-to-door service, with scope for individual assistance with the particular needs of a disabled passenger.”
By utilising taxis it can prevent disabled people from being socially isolated at home by providing the option of accessing a range of lifestyle opportunities and activities that many non-disabled people routinely take for granted.
In 2019, the number of taxi or PHV trips made by adults aged 16 or over with mobility difficulties increased from 16 trips per person per year in 2010 to 21 trips per person per year. Adults with mobility difficulties use taxis or PHVs more than people without mobility difficulties (21 trips per person vs. 11 trips per person).
Religion and Belief
No discernible impact
No discernible impact
Pregnancy and maternity
No discernible impact
No discernible impact
Marriage or Civil Partnership
No discernible impact
Socio-economic disadvantage: any people experiencing poverty
Transport is an essential part of the lives of low-income families and critical in terms of shaping their experience of poverty. Transport has the potential to exacerbate the hardship families were facing, as well as being a tool to draw upon as a way of alleviating poverty. For example, accessing employment or education.
COVID-19 affected families’ use and experience of transport. Key impacts included reduced access to public transport as well as reduced uptake. Transport represents a key cost in daily life and can be difficult to balance alongside other essential day to day living. Where households did not have access to private transport, taxis can be used in situations where public transport is problematic for instance in rural areas. The experiences of low-income families indicates that transport often determines and constraints their options in terms of household spending and their day-to-day experiences.
We have engaged extensively with businesses and their representative organisations during the pandemic. Engagement with organisations representing the taxi sector included the Scottish Taxi Federation, Unite the Union and the Scottish Association for Private Hire Operators provided an opportunity to listen to stakeholder views, develop and test ideas, share information about progress and discuss and address specific issues identified by the sector and individual businesses.
These conversations provided an essential insight into the make-up of the sector, the impact the pandemic was having as well as the importance of the sector to a number groups of protected characteristics within local communities.
In order to do all we could to ensure that all eligible taxi drivers and operators received their awards, claim processes were designed for both awards to be as straightforward as possible . Drivers did not need to apply, or contact their local authority. Instead, local authorities directly approached an estimated 38,000 licensed private hire and taxi drivers inviting them to claim their grant and asked them to provide de minimus supporting information. These actions contributed to increasing uptake, ease administration and shorten payment timeframes.
After the Taxi and Private Hire Driver and Operator Support Fund was launched on 2 June 2021 Unite the Union suggested that uptake was being undermined by limitations in IT literacy among taxi and PHV operators. In order to mitigate the risk of digital exclusion we worked closely with industry representatives and local authorities to develop and offer further support. Local authorities clearly signposted their helpline numbers on the webpages which they are using to host the claim forms to highlight that support was available, if required. And the closing date was extended to 23 July 2021 for the operator grant support to give those eligible more time.
Next Steps (if any)
Declaration and Publication
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