To note any requests to speak on any items that are on the agenda in accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Scheme (see footnote to this agenda).
Mr Richard Waller, on behalf of his step-son, Lewis Waller (resident in Bidford Upon Avon), attended to speak on item 9 on the agenda: Free Bus Travel (Concessionary Travel) Scheme Review. Mr Waller explained that
Lewis lived with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy and severe learning difficulties. Lewis used a wheelchair for mobility and was dependent on care and support 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
At the time of the meeting, Lewis was 34 years old and Mr Waller explained that Bidford (where Lewis was living) was not a vibrate, accessible, happening village or community for such an age group. Lewis needed to travel by bus for swimming, music, live bands, variety in pubs, bowling, and a variety of clubs and activities, all of which needed to be accessible.
Mr Waller advised that Lewis was in receipt of a full enhanced level of disability benefits, and after the financial assessment of care services, Lewis was left with a weekly allowance of £156 to cover all everyday expenditure such as heating, lighting, food, clothing and amount of pocket money. Mr Waller stated that it was indisputable that Lewis must have a carer with him even on the bus – this was not a luxury but a necessity.
However, Mr Waller advised that disabled travellers that needed a carer to travel with them were charged a two person fare by the bus operator, with a disabled traveller paying their fare through the local authority’s concessionary fare scheme and a second fare for their carer. The cost of a Stagecoach day ticket for Lewis’s carer was £11 per day at the time of the meeting. This was the most expensive tariff and it was not possible to buy a monthly pass since it was not transferable between carers.
Mr Waller further stated that the Equality Act 2010 stated that it was illegal to discriminate against service users due to their disability, and it was his view that residents in Warwickshire were being financial discriminated against as they were being double charged for a single service. He had asked the Council to review the legalities of Lewis being charged a fare for his carer by bus operators. To Mr Waller it appeared nonsensical as well as immoral that bus operators did not charge for an assistance dog, a pushchair, or luggage but were happy to charge for care.
He noted that neighbouring councils facilitated carer companion travel by having a “+1” or “C+” indicator on the disabled person’s pass. Nothing new would be required as a carer companion scheme was already in practice across England. He suggested that the Council reached out to copy this system. Mr Waller noted that paragraph 7.7 of the report acknowledged that providing companion passes may cost the authority £100,000 per annum compared with the annual reimbursement budget of £5.1 million, with a recommendation for a feasibility study to be undertaken. He proposed that the companion scheme be introduced for a period of one year as the feasibility study, thereby saving the expense of a paper study which would have no immediate, tangible benefit to the dependence of disabled travellers.