Disabled bus pass holders 'will lose independence' when changes to travel use are enforced

Disabled bus pass holders 'will lose independence' when changes to travel use are enforced

Adults with learning disabilities say they are going to struggle to use buses to get to work on time when changes to their passes are enforced on Monday.

Charges implemented by Surrey County Council (SCC) to save money mean free disabled bus passes will be restricted to use between 9.30am and 11pm from Monday (April 1).

But those who now use the bus to get to work before 9.30am say this will impact their ability to travel to work and independence as well as cost them more than other bus users.

Two of those affected took their case to the county hall on Tuesday (March 26) when they addressed councillors at the cabinet meeting.

Safeguard Coaches is one of the companies Surrey County Council is talking to about reducing charges for pass holders (Image: Steve Porter/Surrey Advertiser)

Work colleagues Katy Robertson and Duncan Robertson both have cognitive and communication difficulties.

Their employer, Pauline Robertson, director of Frimhurst Enterprises, says the bus pass gives them the independence to use a bus to get to work without having to talk to the driver.

But under the changes brought in by SCC they will now have to try and ask for a ticket which neither of them are able to do.

They said they also did not want to have to get a later bus as that would mean arriving at work later and therefore not fair on their co-workers.

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Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Pauline, who spoke on behalf of Katy and Duncan, said: “It’s not reasonable to expect adults to turn up to work late. It’s not fair on the rest of the workforce and I don’t think that should really be an option that Surrey County Council is telling these young people who aspire to get paid jobs.

“They aspire to get paid jobs because Surrey County Council has given them a very good education and given them the opportunities to access transformative services.”

When Katy, 27, first started at Frimhurst Enterprises in Camberley she used the bus with a carer, but over the course of a year she has decided she really wants to take the bus on her own and has now got the confidence to do so.

Pauline added: “She has fought very hard for this independence but she needs Surrey County Council to provide the tools to carry on being independent.

Cllr Mike Goodman says he is still negotiating with bus companies to get reduced fares

“She doesn’t want to have a support worker accompany her to the bus so she can buy a bus ticket.”

For Duncan, 28, the changes mean he will have to spend £12.80 more a week than non-disabled bus pass holders.

This is because he will have to buy a weekly Smart Card at £19.80 as he cannot speak to the driver and state his destination. For a member of the public the same trip would cost £7.

Pauline added: “We feel this is discriminating against the most vulnerable in our society.”

Councillor Mike Goodman, cabinet member for environment and waste, went to Frimhurst on Friday last week to meet with Duncan and Katy.

He said they did consult on changes to concessionary fares last year and that other councils have removed the free bus passes completely.

He said: “We decided we would not do away with it for the whole day but we would charge for the morning.”

He said they have talked to bus companies to see if they can come up with a deal for reduced prices for pass holders.

Cllr Goodman added: “We will do what we can to try and bridge the gap to ensure that those people with problems, that we try to help them.”

SCC announced on Friday (March 22) they will be issuing a Helping Hands card which can be carried by disabled passengers which gives bus drivers information about what help they need. 


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