Opinion: Conservative run Shropshire takes independence away from disabled and elderly

Shropshire LinkA month ago, we heard from Matt who wrote bravely about how he feels denigrated by Conservatives attacking welfare claimants. Today, Ian – a disabled bus user in Shropshire living in sheltered accommodation – writes about problems with transport as his Conservative council slashes bus services.  

I am writing this article because I am campaigning on behalf of registered users from Three Crosses, Clee Hill near Ludlow and other scheme managers, users and their carers in South Shropshire. We were users of Shropshire Link, a regular, bookable bus service that served all the rural areas.

We have lost our independence thanks to the Conservative Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, Claire Wilde, who abolished the Link service as of 8 October. It has been replaced with a community bus service.

It seems to me that the Council had already decided to disband the most vital service in South Shropshire – the Shropshire Link Minibus service before Councillor Wilde sent a letter on 5th August 2013, asking for feedback on the service provided by the Shropshire Link.

What Cllr Wild and her fellow Cabinet members failed to take in to consideration are these points:

Not all registered users are computer literate, understand English, read or write or have someone who can explain what the letter is or reply on their behalf. They should have held a public meeting so people could air their grievances and put their points face to face.

I asked a few people what does this mean to them losing the Shropshire Link. And they told me these following points.

Some of the users cannot walk more than 25 yards to catch the Public Bus service 292, which only comes every 2 hours and that’s if it turns up. Their independence has been taken away, especially when they thought living in sheltered accommodation was to help to live an independent life and not to rely on people to do things for them.

Through my research we have found the community bus service is the scrappiest compared to the Link, and there is much massaging of statistics in Cllr Wild’s press release. We have found there had been a small fall in numbers since the end of last year. But the numbers were stable and this is a service that could be rejigged, and made more efficient.

The Conservative councillors should realise that they are elected by the people to serve the people, not to take things away from the community.

Now you have to pay £30.00 a year to register with Community transport and pay £2.00 a trip on top, and not all the users can offered that. Also we would like to know if the Voluntary Drivers are going to be trained in First Aid at work and customer care.

I have a feeling this new community service is going to be a flop.

* Ian Griffiths is a Lib Dem member living in rural South Shropshire

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  • A Social Liberal 31st Oct '13 - 11:14pm

    This government is attacking disabled people on so many fronts. I have personally seen it in recent cases I been involved in and so it is with transport.

    Because of the massive reduction in council grants from central government, NYCC have made it impossible to tracel easily from some villages to town and vice versa. To get from Skipton to Harrogate I now have to do a huge dog-leg via Leeds, doubling the milage I would have to travel and increasing the traveling times by even more. I can no longer get to the village I grew up in and visiting my ancient parent takes incredibly careful planning.

    Disabled people not in major conurbations are paying a much higher price for the country’s austerity.

  • Shakes head…

    Who is in government?
    Who is setting policy?
    The disabled people are only just starting to be retested for DLA to PIP, what do you think will happen?

    The Government have stated they expect to save at least 20%, what do you think that actually means?

    Figures are confusing
    “The new assessment includes an individual’s ability to carry out a broad range of activities such as washing, dressing, cooking and getting around as well as reading and communicating. Pilots began in April and PIP will now be rolled out across England, Wales and Scotland.

    But campaigners say that the changes are about saving money – the government expects to save around 20 per cent from the current bill – and this means that 600,000 disabled people will lose support. DLA fraud only accounts for 0.5 per cent of the total bill.

    Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said: “Life costs more if you’re disabled, but this year with living costs spiralling and income flat-lining, disabled people are really struggling to make ends meet. Disabled people are getting into debt to pay for essentials.

    “What’s the government’s response? It is cutting the very financial life-line designed to help them meet the extra costs they face. DLA needed reforming and could be better targeted. But disabled people believe this reform is just an excuse to save money.””

    If you think disabled people are struggling now, wait until these retests start denying disabled people the ability to pay carers, or disabled lose entitlement to the mobility component and end up stranded in the home, I think there will be a massive problem as sick and disabled people suddenly fill up A & E seeking help… when this starts to happen, hope and pray that we have a warm winter because if we have a bad winter and disabled people die after losing benefits… imagine the headlines… I can.
    This course of action the government is undertaking is a massive gamble with lives of the most vulnerable…

    Yes I am disabled, yes we fear it is nothing more than cost cutting using… retargeting the benefit to those who need it most…
    Being told you are no longer entitled to a disabled benefit, does not mean you are no longer disabled… it just means the government no longer cares… this is the same government who want to abandon the EU human rights… makes you wonder does it not.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 1st Nov '13 - 10:05am

    Thanks to the wonderful Lib Dem government, advisers of benefits claimants are now being given suicide awareness training because of the number of benefits claimants threatening to commit suicide as a consequence of the vilification they have received at the hands of your government and the so called “free” press. Proud of yourselves are you?

  • David Evans 1st Nov '13 - 11:33am

    Helen is spot on here,

  • Ian, is this a case of indirect discrimination, where a decision that applies to all users has a detrimental effect on a particular group, in contravention of the Equalities Act.? Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau and/or Law Centre.

  • Without wishing to defend the Tory-run Shropshire CC, many councils are making unpopular cuts at the moment thanks to the swingeing reductions in local government funding introduced by the coalition and voted through by LibDem MPs. Did you really think cuts of 30% and upwards in council funding could be achieved painlessly? (especially at a time when there are rising cost pressures in child and adult social care).

    The Local Government Association has warned that, on present trajectories (and bearing in mind the further cuts pencilled in for 2015-16) many councils will be unable to provide non-statutory services in a few years time – in response, Eric Pickles blethers on about shared services whilst badgering councils to axe parking charges and fines, which will leave a further gap in their budgets. It would be comical if it were not for the fact that residents in Shropshire and elsewhere (especially the elderly and vulnerable) depend on the services councils provide.

  • Julian Dean 2nd Nov '13 - 9:33pm

    So typical of this site, this kind of article.

    Welfare and Local Government grant cuts are fully endorsed and backed by the LDP and this is just one of many consequences of LDP and Tory policy.

    You can only trim the fat so far, after that its peoples lives that are affected…..Can’t handle it? Pull out of the coalition.

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