For example, although some people are automatically entitled to a Blue Badge or a travel pass (e.g. if they receive the higher rate of DLA mobility component), many other people who have a need but can’t tick a box will receive these at the council’s discretion. However, councils are beginning to tighten the criteria and there is no statutory right of appeal, meaning that many people could find they no longer qualify when they come to renew these essential transport benefits, and can do nothing about it.
In London, where public transport is complex, there is an additional concession – the Taxicard. This enables the holder to a reduced fare in certain black taxis, making it easier to get about if you are unable to access the buses or tubes – and until now different boroughs have implemented the scheme in different ways, but this is due to be harmonised with everyone being entitled to 104 trips a year. That’s equivalent to going out and back once a week, but is it realistic to expect someone with mobility impairments to undertake all their shopping and chores for the week in a single trip? Worse, I hear rumours that Taxicard may soon be closed to new applicants – for good. This is an essential service for many Londoners who need to get around, but can’t afford to pay the full cost of taxis. If you think you may qualify, I can only encourage you to apply as soon as possible, before any changes come into force.
Joined up thinking has gone out of the window. Councils used to offer extra taxicard trips in certain circumstances, but now anything which requires discretionary funding has been withdrawn. A case in point is ‘Andy’, a person with learning difficulties, who entirely relied on their taxicard to get about. Sure, they could physically get on the bus, but wouldn’t know where to go once on board, or even which bus to catch. They soon used up their taxicard allowance for a year but instead of being given additional trips to accommodate their access needs, this year they were told “you have a bus pass, you have to use that instead”. The last I heard, what should have been a simple bus ride turned into a long and confused expedition... Surely in this case it makes sense to give them extra taxi allowances rather than issue a bus pass?
Also in London, I’m told that the Borough of Barking has withdrawn their community transport scheme, which used to bring disabled people to meetings and take them shopping.
Where will the axe fall next? It could be your council.