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"Disability doesn't start at 9:30am..."

3 minute read
"Disability doesn't start at 9:30am..."

Published at 1:53pm 21st March 2019.

There has been an outcry over a decision by Surrey County Council to withdraw bus passes at certain times for disabled passengers.

It comes after a consultation reviewing bus passes for the disabled and their carers.

From April 1, the passes will only be valid after 9:30am and before 11pm.

Social enterprises and charities say it could impact on the ability of some disabled people to get to work in the mornings., affecting their independence, and hampering their social life.

Pauline Robertson from Frimhurst Enterprises in Frimley Green, which helps people with learning disabilities, has started a petition against the move.

The petition features two people who are clients of the social enterprise, and says:

"Duncan and Katy will lose their right to free bus travel before 9.30 am and after 11pm from April 1st as Surrey County Council faced with financial constraints follow national policy.

"Disabled people face enough difficulties in their everyday lives and shouldn’t be discriminated against in this way.

"Disability doesn’t start at 9.30 am and finish at 11pm."

Pauline told Eagle that some disabled people will not be able to catch the bus during the restricted times, because they cannot manage money and struggle to communicate with bus drivers to ask for tickets:

"Their disability doesn't start at 9:30 in the morning, their disability is with them 24 hours a day.

"These councillors need to live in their shoes and see what life is really like."

Frimhurst clients talk about their concern over the changed policy

The Halow Project - a Guildford charity for young people with disabilities - has also spoken out against the change in policy, describing the move as "devastating for people with a disability for whom the access to the community, training and employment use of the bus pass gives is a lifeline."

Halow Project director Ann Kenney said:

"This latest move to save the council funds discriminates against working-age disabled people and goes against both national strategies for people with disabilities living a full and active life in their community, as well as the Surrey County Councils own strategy for ensuring “no one is left behind”.

"This move will see people fall into social isolation and further into economic hardship."

In response, Surrey County Council said the decision was based on the number of passengers in this group using buses before 9:30am, and because of budget constraints:

“Surrey had been providing benefits to concessionary bus fares over and above the national scheme for many years.

"However as only around two per cent of journeys under the scheme were made before 9.30am and because of the challenges the council faces to make its budget sustainable we’ve had to bring our offer in line with other councils across the country.”


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