May 25 2013 Latest news:
by Melissa York, Reporter
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Jackie Harvey from Manor Park, suffers from severe arthritis and bowel problems so she relies on door-to-door travel in licensed taxis to get around.
But following a proposal presented to Newham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet in May to reduce subsidised Taxicard journeys for the elderly and disabled by 80 per cent, Jackie, 64, of Whitta Road is beginning to worry about her independence as she gets older.
Currently, TfL fund around two-thirds of the Taxicard scheme in Newham but capped their contribution for three years in April 2011 putting pressure on the council to fund the scheme for an increasing population in a climate of severe budget cuts.
The Taxicard scheme in Newham currently provides 522 subsidised journeys per year for those the elderly and disabled who meet certain criteria such as those who are registered severely visually impaired or blind.
If proposals are approved after the end of the public consultation at the end of this month, the number of journeys per year will be reduced over a three year period to 312 to 144 trips to 104 trips - equating to two rides per week.
Debbie Walker, chief executive of Age UK East London, said:: “We recognise that some other boroughs have already reduced the number of Taxicard journeys per person and we are concerned that it is a damaging and regrettable limitation on older and disabled people’s mobility.”
Val Fone, director of Action and Rights for Disabled People in Newham, based at the Community Links building in Barking Road, co-cordinates the Newham Transport Action Group and she hopes for a compromise to keep the reduction at 312 trips.
She said: “We are mindful of the financial position that the council is in due to Government cuts in TfL and in their own budget, but do not support the proposed eventual reduction in Year Three to 104 trips which equates to one journey a week, as we believe this will lead to enforced isolation and budget make-up elsewhere. Disabled children in particular will be hit hard.”
Commenting on a compromise of 312 journeys, Jackie said: “I do think that’s reasonsable as 104 is only two rides a week. I used two journeys to get to Stratford Station, two to get my pension, two to have my flu jab done, and two to get my shopping so I’ve used up one month’s worth in a week after the final reduction.”
A Newham Council spokesman said the phased reduction gives users sufficient time to make necessary changes to their travel and explore other concessionary options such as Dial-a-Ride, Blue Badges, and Freedom Passes.
They also argue the move will bring Newham’s maximum journeys in line with 26 of the 33 London boroughs, 84 per cent of service users already use within the 104 journey limit per year, and there is evidence of misuse as 15 to 20 per cent of trips are used for hospital appointments which should be undertaken independently or by NHS Patient Transport.
A report of the consultation results, final recommendations and an Equality Impact Assessment will go before Cabinet in December and the results announced in January on www.newham.gov.uk/taxicardconsultation.
Make your voice heard before the consultation ends on October 31 by visiting the website above, or order a paper questionnaire by calling 0800 082 2202 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.