I am a physically disabled Liberal Democrat member living in London and have held a Taxicard for about 5 years now. For those who don’t know this, a Taxicard allows Londoners with mobility problems subsidised trips in black taxis within London boroughs.
On Good Friday, I asked the London Taxicard service a simple question. It was a question I have asked them several times before: How many trips do I have left?
The answer? 52. The next question: When is that up to? Here comes the unpleasant surprise: That’s for the whole year.
Fifty-two trips a year? That’s one trip a week, I thought. That can’t be right.
That means that I can’t book a return journey using the Taxicard service- at least not unless I only use it once in two weeks.
Surely they can’t be expecting disabled people to only leave their houses once in two weeks? When I started on the scheme almost 5 years ago, I was told the trips could be used for social or medical reasons. At the time, I was given 104 trips per year.
For a start, I have weekly medical appointments. If I was to need to use the service to get to these under the current rules, how would I get home? And, only slightly less importantly, how would I ever have any sort of an independent social life if I used up all my trips on medical appointments?
Further research last night revealed that my London borough has halved Taxicard trips per year from 1st April 2012 for “members who also hold either or both a Freedom Pass or a Blue Badge.”
This discovery answered my questions. I have a Blue Badge.
However, the suggestion that a Blue Badge should entitle you to fewer Taxicard trips is madness. Blue Badges only entitle you to park within walking distance of wherever you want to go. I know there are other advantages but sadly, 24 hour access to a car is not one of them! I still can’t drive or use public transport without company. I carry my Blue Badge with me and use it in the car of whoever I happen to be with.
When I started using the Taxicard scheme it gave me a whole new and wonderful level of freedom. I could now get a cheap lift to the cinema or to a friend’s house. It significantly reduced the need for my parents to drive me around town- and for that reason it has become a valuable part of my life.
Now I am being told that just because I hold a Blue Badge I can either only leave my house independently once in two weeks or, if I choose to leave independently once a week, I still need to drag one of my parents out of the house to pick me up when the movie finishes or when my friends need me to leave their houses.
Where is the very independence that the Taxicard scheme was set up to allow? How is leaving the house once in two weeks a free, independent social life for any young person? And without these unreasonable restrictions, if we wish to keep our independence, how do we get home?
With the London Mayoral elections coming up, I even tweeted Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick about this very important issue. His response? “good scheme not brilliantly administered; not helped by LAs having differing approach to funding which creates uncertainty.” Good points, all true, but, disappointingly, no mention of how he would help. The London Liberal Democrats have not yet responded to my tweet.
I have started a campaign on Facebook: How Do We Get Home on Facebook. Please visit it.
* Sarah Ismail is a Lib Dem member who blogs at Same Difference about disability issues big and small.