Cuts to Harrow's Taxicard scheme will leave the disabled 'trapped in their homes'
Disabled elderly people say they will “be left to lie down and die” after cuts to a scheme which provides subsidised taxi journeys for those with severe mobility problems.
The Taxicard service, which has 90,000 members across London, gives disabled people who have complex problems and struggle to use public transport a lifeline by paying for door-to-door taxi trips.
But under pressure for cuts from the Mayor of London, funding for the scheme was cut drastically by London Councils last year, and from April, Harrow Council decided to limit the amount of journeys that could be claimed by users to 104 per financial year, and set a passenger contribution of £2.50 per journey.
And for those who also hold a Freedom Pass for public transport, or a disabled blue badge, councillors decided to limit the number of journeys to 52 – and some pensioners say they have already run out.
Every council in the capital had to choose how it dealt with the loss of funding, with some, such as Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets, choosing to protect the scheme.
Richmond upon Thames Council took a similar approach to Harrow last year, but after an uproar from campaigners and research that showed that disabled people were leaving home less as a result of the changes, they reversed the limit of 54 journeys on those with a Freedom Pass or blue badge and reinstated it to 104.
Councillor Husain Akhtar, who represents the two women’s ward, is calling for the council to rethink its policy, using the example of Richmond.
He said: “I know the council is looking for cuts but perhaps it can learn from Richmond upon Thames in this case.
“I have unsuccessfully tried to reason with the collections and housing benefits team to consider individual circumstances but was told there can’t be any exceptions – I’m disappointed by a straight jacket approach.”
“This change has caused serious problems for many elderly residents in my ward who now go out less often with obvious implications, including isolation.”
The cuts are also a double whammy to the local yellow badge drivers, many of whom rely on the Taxi Card Scheme to supplement their income.
Roy, a local Yellow Badge Driver for over 25 years said " I work the Station mainly, but a great percentage of my jobs are Taxicard work. Harrow, over the last few years have taken away many Taxi spaces in the area that were busy ranks with shoppers. The rank opposite Debenhams has gone so have the ones in Kimberley Road and Havelock Place.
If we don't get the Taxicard work from Northwick Park Hospital then the rank will not be serviced and eventually it will be over run by touting minicab drivers
Source: Harrow Times