WITH a concessionary bus pass, eligible people with disabilities can travel on local buses in Wales for free.
The passes have been widely welcomed for making public transport more accessible and helping people remain active, access local services and engage with their communities.
There is a significant lack of consistency between local councils in South East Wales when they make decisions about who is eligible for a disabled person’s concessionary bus pass.
For some disabled people, using public transport without a companion would be unsafe or extremely difficult.
Therefore, those with disabilities who are unable to travel alone are eligible for a companion bus pass that allows another person to travel with them for free.
A number of people in my region have brought it to my attention that there is a lack of clarity in the eligibility criteria for a bus pass and variation in implementation of the companion pass from area to area.
I’ve been in contact with all the councils in South East Wales and found that policy on issuing concessionary bus passes, in particular to those with serious visual impairments, is confusing in some areas, while in Caerphilly, those with visual impairments are not considered eligible at all.
In many areas, those who have been issued with a companion pass are never allowed to travel alone. This is contrary to Welsh Government guidance which reflects that many disabled people may be comfortable making familiar, local journeys alone but need help when travelling further afield.
I asked the First Minister about this last week and he agreed that there should be consistency between councils on how the guidance on eligibility is interpreted but the Welsh Government has done little to make sure that this is the case.
In 2011 the, now defunct, Equality of Opportunity Committee raised this issue and recommended that there should be a common application form in all areas and that the criteria for the use of companion bus passes should be clarified. Nothing has been done by the Government since then.
I am calling on the Welsh Government and local councils to look closely at how they decide who to give concessionary passes to. The criteria should be clear and Welsh Government guidance should be enforced so that all disabled people in Wales receive the same help, no matter where they live.