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Published 17 August 2022
© Crown copyright 2022
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dptac-position-on-eligibility-criteria-for-concessionary-bus-travel/dptac-position-on-the-eligibility-criteria-for-concessionary-bus-travel
‘Bus Back Better’ the National Bus Strategy published in March 2021 included a commitment to review eligibility for the concessionary bus pass for disabled people. DPTAC believes that this is an important opportunity to bring these criteria in line with current understanding of disability. To prepare for the review DPTAC has discussed the changes which we would like to see and prepared this position paper setting these out. This position paper sits alongside similar work we have been doing to widen eligibility for the Disabled Person’s Railcard.
A mandatory bus concession scheme for older and disabled people has been in place since 2001. It has been gradually extended and since April 2008.
Under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, bus passengers aged over female state pension age, or with a disability, have been entitled to travel free of charge on any off-peak local service in England.
The scheme is enshrined in primary legislation through the ‘Greater London Authority Act 1999’ and the ‘Transport Act 2000’ (as modified by the ‘Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007’).
Local Travel Concession Authorities (TCAs) are responsible for administering the scheme.
Since April 2011, county councils, unitary authorities, passenger transport executives and London boroughs have held TCA responsibility and, therefore, responsibility for running the schemes.
Additional to the mandatory bus concession, they are able to make use of powers provided by the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Transport Act 1985 to offer discretionary concessionary travel schemes.
An example of a discretionary concessionary travel scheme is that if you live in London, you can travel free on buses, tubes and other transport when you’re 60, but only within London.
There are currently 7 categories of disabled people entitled to the statutory minimum concession and these are set out in section 146 of the Transport Act 2000 and section 240(5) of the Greater London authority act (in relation to London).
Currently an eligible disabled person is someone who:
The range of disabilities currently entitled to the statutory minimum bus concessions has not kept pace with the much-improved understanding of disability now available. In particular, the current eligibility criteria do not generally include people with non-visible disabilities.
Changes to the eligibility criteria for Personal Independence Payment and the national Blue Badge scheme introduced in recent years have both given greater recognition to non-visible disabilities and how they can impact on mobility. This means that benefits which have in the past been used to authorise entitlement to a bus pass can now consider factors which do not entitle someone to a bus pass.
In addition to the obvious anomalies and potential injustices which this creates it also means the ‘passporting’ approach where eligibility for one benefit creates an automatic entitlement to another has to be applied with caution when deciding whether to issue an individual with a bus pass.
There is an evident need to review and update the eligibility criteria to ensure they reflect the full range of conditions experienced by disabled people, as well as ensuring that qualifying criteria are focused on those most in need of assistance.
There is a wide range of disabilities not necessarily ‘visible’ to other people.
DPTAC has created the following list after careful thought and consultation. While it is not exhaustive, we believe it broadly covers the main range of non-visible disabilities.
Non-visible disabilities may include:
DPTAC believes it is important to emphasise that there is no strict delineation between visible and non-visible disabilities and to remember that sometimes people experience a combination of both, for example, a person in a wheelchair may also have a mental health condition.
It is easy to see how people with hearing loss and/or low or restricted vision can fit into the current bus concession criteria, but unless the disabled person happens to have an inability to walk or drive, it is more difficult to see how the other non-visible disabilities might fit in with the current bus concession criteria.
For example, someone who has autism, but does not also have a significant learning disability, may well find it difficult to travel through anxiety and/or sensory difficulties, but they would be unlikely to be awarded a bus pass.
The same goes for people with mental health conditions, however severe they are. Without significant impairment of intelligence, they too would appear to be currently ineligible for concessionary travel. This would also be true for some people with non-visible physical health conditions, for example, chronic pain.
Unless you are visually impaired most, if not all, bus pass concession schemes permit only off-peak travel. They are not specifically designed to encourage commuting travel to and from work.
However, lower employment rates for disabled people remain a significant problem with transport constituting an important barrier to employment.
An opportunity exists, therefore, to review whether the current bus pass scheme could be developed to encourage and facilitate travel to/from work by disabled people.
The guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT) to local TCAs concerning the evidence they might ask for from disabled person bus pass applicants is brief.
TCAs vary in their requirements for proof of eligibility and there is an opportunity for DfT to provide a more comprehensive list of suggested proof of eligibility to TCAs that would ensure greater equality of access to bus passes across the country.
DPTAC recommends a review of:
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC)
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