More than 150,000 children and young people have already been able to enjoy free bus travel in Kent this summer and there’s still time for anyone who hasn’t taken advantage of this unique offer to pick up a pass.
The scheme, the only one of its kind in England, was made possible after 14 bus companies united with Kent County Council, as part of the Reconnect programme, to offer free travel for all children and young people aged up to 18, as well as families with younger children, during the summer holidays. The offer runs until Tuesday, August 31 so anyone without a pass only has limited time to pick one up from a local collection point.
The Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People programme, which launched in March and will run until August 2022, aims to help the county’s younger generation reconnect with the aspects of their lives that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A programme of fun activities and learning opportunities is running across Kent throughout the summer holidays.
Reconnect is led by KCC but is a whole community effort, and businesses, schools, community groups, other local authorities, clubs and societies, and volunteers have come together to generously donate time, equipment, facilities, and services to help Kent’s children and young people. In July, KCC announced that multiple bus companies had become the latest group of businesses to get onboard with the programme.
A total of 130,000 free bus passes have been issued to young people aged 11 to 18 (school years 6 to 13). Most of these were handed out by schools and colleges before the end of the summer term but young people who are educated at home, and those who weren’t in school at the time, were able to pick theirs up from collection points within the community, where replacements for lost passes can also be obtained.
In addition to the passes for 11 to 18-year-olds, a further 40,000 family passes have been made available for families with younger children who do not have access to their own transport. The family passes allow four family members, including at least one adult, to travel for free.
All the bus passes are valid throughout the county between Thursday, July 22 and Tuesday, August 31.
Bus companies usually report a drop in the number of children and young people using their services during the summer holidays as they aren’t travelling to and from school but this year the businesses KCC works with have noticed a marked increase.
One of those companies is Stagecoach South East and its Managing Director, Joel Mitchell, said: “We’re welcoming people back to our buses safely and we want to encourage young people to be part of that. The Reconnect programme is a brilliant initiative that focuses on a critical part of our community – our children and young people who have suffered as a result of the Covid restrictions. This scheme gives them a much-needed boost to get out and about and catch up on all that was missed. We’re proud to support that by offering free travel to pass holders throughout the summer holiday.”
Children and young people are using their bus passes to travel to a range of fun summer activities on offer as part of the Reconnect programme and designed to help them to socialise, boost their mental well-being, play sport, and take part in outdoor pursuits or creative sessions – all things they may have missed out on in the past 18 months. Just a few examples of what’s on offer include gymnastics, tennis, fencing, art workshops, bowls lessons, bushcraft activities, wildlife walks, creative writing courses, DJing, horse riding and yoga. Youngsters have also been going to leisure centres across Kent, many of which have provided discounted passes as part of the Reconnect programme.
Sue Chandler, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said: “My colleagues and I are delighted that, by working with our partner organisations, we have been able to provide what we believe is a unique offer to the children and young people of Kent. I would like to once again thank the owners, managing directors and staff of each of the 14 bus companies for uniting with us under the Reconnect banner and helping us give something back to members of the younger generation, who have sacrificed so much throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We must also thank everyone across Kent who has contributed to providing such a wide variety of activities as part of the Reconnect programme’s summer offer.
“It’s great that so many children, young people and families have taken up the offer of free bus travel and used their passes to travel to some of the fun and beneficial activities being offered this summer as part of Reconnect.”
There is still time for children and young people to pick up a free bus pass and join in with the Reconnect programme; see the webpages for the full list of local collection points and activities on offer.
Notes to journalists:
The full list of bus companies offering free travel to children and young people over the summer holidays as part of the Reconnect programme are:
- Farleigh Coaches
- Go Coach
- Hams Travel
- Kent Coach Tours
- R&J Coaches
- Regent Coaches
- Starline Coaches
Full details about bus passes and how to obtain them can be found here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/reconnect/reconnect-activities-and-events/free-bus-travel-for-young-people-and-families
- The main Reconnect webpage can be found here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/reconnect
- The Reconnect What’s On guide can be found here: https://local.kent.gov.uk/kb5/kent/directory/whats_on.page
- Find out about opportunities to Reconnect with Learning here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/reconnect/reconnect-activities-and-events/reconnect-with-education
- The list of leisure centres offering discounted passes for £25 (£10 for children who are eligible for benefits-related Free School Meals) can be found here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/schools/reconnect/reconnect-activities-and-events/reconnect-leisure-centre-passes
Previous Reconnect media releases
- The launch: https://kccmediahub.net/ambitious-kcc-led-community-programme-will-help-children-and-young-people-reconnect-with-their-pre-covid-19-lives745
- Committing £10m to Reconnect: https://kccmediahub.net/kent-county-council-commits-10m-to-reconnect-programme-to-provide-opportunities-for-children-and-young-people-following-covid-19-pandemic745
- Announcing free bus travel and discounted leisure centre passes: https://kccmediahub.net/free-bus-travel-and-leisure-centre-discounts-as-reconnect-kent-children-and-young-people-summer-programme-launched745