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Paper  6 -  22 March 2002 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

22 March 2002

THE FREE TRAVEL OPTION FOR THE BLIND AND OTHER PEOPLE WITH DIFFICULTY HANDLING CASH

Report by the Chief Executive of Rushmoor Borough Council in consultation with the County and District Councils

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RECOMMENDATION

That the report be noted.
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BACKGROUND

1. The Association meeting last November asked the District Councils to consider offering free travel to the blind and partially sighted. This followed consideration of a report by the County Surveyor at the request of Councillor Ken Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council.

THE HAMPSHIRE FARE PASS SCHEME

2. The Fare Pass scheme is operated by Hampshire County Council on behalf of the District Councils. Within the Fare Pass scheme there is a free travel option which gives practical assistance to certain categories including the blind, but excluding the partially sighted. This option was introduced at the outset, when Fare Pass was established, following consultation with all District Councils. After detailed consideration, following the Association’s November meeting, all District Councils have decided to consider whether or not to offer the free travel option under the Fare Pass scheme.

THE FREE TRAVEL OPTION UNDER THE FARE PASS SCHEME

3. This option was set up within the Fare Pass scheme to provide practical assistance to people who had difficulty dealing with money:

ˇ blind people (not partially sighted)

ˇ people without arms

ˇ people with severe mental handicap

ˇ people who cannot hear and speak

For people who need to be accompanied there is a companion pass which is an alternative to the free travel pass in circumstances where a disabled applicant is so severely disabled they are unable to travel on public transport without assistance.

4. Hampshire County Council as the Fare Pass operator stresses that the offer of free travel to people in the groups above is not intended to provide them with additional financial assistance, which could be seen as discrimination against people with other disabilities. The aim is simply one of offering practical help by removing the need to handle money (in the same way that induction loops are provided to assist those who have hearing disabilities). However Members should be aware that concerns have been raised by more than one District Council over the possibility of challenge through discriminating against other disabled people. Each Authority will need to consider this element when looking at revisions to its current scheme.

5. Subject to these concerns about legal challenge, the Fare Pass scheme allows Councils to participate in providing the free travel option for the four particular categories of people shown above. The Transport Act 2000 allows councils to grant completely free travel to applicants but it is solely at the discretion of the District or Unitary Council.

COSTS

6. Those authorities which have introduced free travel under the Fare Pass scheme have found that the extra cost is minimal. This is mainly because the number of applicants is so small, but in any case the cost can be fully offset by charging a fee for the pass.

THE UNITARY COUNCILS

7. The Unitary Councils do not participate in the Hampshire Fare Pass Scheme and instead run their own arrangements. Portsmouth and Southampton offer free travel to the blind. The Isle of Wight offers half-fare but is now planning to change to free travel for the blind.

THE DISTRICT COUNCILS’ POSITION

8. As a result of their recent debate, the following District Councils either already offer the free travel option or have decided to offer the free travel option:-

Havant Borough Council*

Rushmoor Borough Council*

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

Winchester City Council

Test Valley Borough Council

* already offer free travel

9. The other six authorities will be reviewing their practice or are awaiting the results of a Best Value Review, or are considering the problem of legal challenge. These Districts have not agreed any time scale for their review, but they will discuss the matter again on 8 November when the Hampshire Fare Pass User Group next meets.

ANDREW LLOYD
Chief Executive, Rushmoor Borough Council

Date: 4 March 2002
Annex: 0
Contact: Nick Goulder - 023 8068 8431, E-mail hiow@eastleigh.gov.uk

Last update: 12/03/2002
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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