Taxicard cuts could leave Westminster’s disabled people isolated

Fury as council aims to save �330,000 by stopping reduced fares for people with mobility problems

THOUSANDS of elderly and disabled people could become increasingly isolated after Westminster Council announced plans to cut at least �330,000 from its Taxicard service.

Many Westminster residents with mobility problems currently receive a Taxicard which enables them to travel in black cabs at reduced fares.

But the council launched a consultation on Monday with four proposals aimed at saving the cash including one option which would see only those with the most complex needs eligible for the service.

Other options include requiring users to pay the full cost of their journey if they can afford to, reducing the number of additional journeys Taxicard members are given, or taking into account other transport benefits people receive.

St John’s Wood resident Monica O’Connell, 82, suffers from heart problems and diabetes and has had a Taxicard for the past three years. She said: “It’s difficult for me to get up the road without a car. I can walk terribly slowly but it tires me out a lot so it doesn’t happen very often.

“If the prices go up I will still have to go to hospital and diabetic clinics so I would just be forced to pay it, which would put me in more financial trouble.”

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The council says one or more of the four proposals could be implemented, with a change in eligibility criteria having the biggest impact saving �480,000 and affecting 2,400 people.

At the other end of the scale, reducing the number of additional journeys available would save just �30,000.

The consultation comes months after the council withdrew social care funding for people with moderate needs.

Westminster Older People’s Action chairman David Hogarth said: “During the last consultation there was a lot of talk about preventative measures to help people through the crisis of losing their care.

“Taxicards are preventative.

“The people who could lose their Taxicards are the same people with moderate needs who lost their care in February.”

Taxicard user Rania Nafeh, who is Westminster Action Network on Disability information officer, said: “I’m really disappointed that these cuts are going to take place. It’s going to be a real dilemma for people who rely heavily on the Taxicard.”

The council says people automatically eligible for a Taxicard will not lose their entitlement.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for society, families and adult services said: “Westminster’s Taxicard scheme is an important service to many people but it is clear that in the current climate we cannot continue to fund it at current levels.

“As a result we are going to have to make some difficult decisions to ensure we use the resources we have to help the most vulnerable.”

Residents have until June 6 to respond to the consultation.

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