Community transport schemes could save up to £1.1bn a year by relieving the pressure on public services and helping older people to remain active, according to a new report.
Research by ECT Charity and Deloitte found that investment in such provision is a highly effective way to tackle loneliness and isolation.
And a second study, developed through the London Strategic Community Transport Forum, sets out ways for operators to 'make a compelling case to commissioners' on the value of their services.
Both reports have been brought together by ECT Charity, one of the UK's leading community transport providers, as part of an awareness raising campaign.
Chief executive Anna Whitty said: 'The next few years are going to be tough for the UK as budgets for public services continue to be cut. It is time to look at things in a different way and community transport is an important – but often invisible – part of the solution.
'Telling our story isn't enough – we have to demonstrate the value of the benefit that we provide, especially when we are trying to convince councils, commissioners and government policymakers that community transport is a worthwhile investment.'
She urged local authorities and clinical commissioning groups to 'look afresh' at schemes in their area and use them to support efforts to improve health and wellbeing.
Dr Alice Maynard, former chair of disability charity Scope, said: 'If we in the transport sector, who are interested in people's wellbeing, want to make change happen and want to make sure that people are better included, then we need to be able to make the economic argument. That is why this report is so important.'
Bill Freeman, chief executive of the Community Transport Association, said: 'Community transport, in all its forms, has the potential to offer a more reliable and resilient way of addressing a growing number of transport needs and contributing to areas of public policy where access and inclusion are significant challenges. It is vital that the CT sector can demonstrate the quality of its services, but also that they add value, so there is something that is a broader benefit beyond the simple fulfilment of the contract.'