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Disabled travel scheme closes for new applicants
A TRAVEL token scheme for disabled people in Christchurch has been closed to new applicants.
Councillors on Christchurch’s resources committee have closed the travel tokens scheme to new applicants from April this year despite concerns on the impact on a number of the borough’s vulnerable people.
The scheme exists to support immobile people unable to use buses in the town and provides taxi tokens for them to get about.
Two years ago the scheme was threatened with withdrawal when the responsibility of funding concessionary travel moved from local borough and district councils to Dorset County Council.
However, Christchurch council offered to fund the tokens to the tune of £15,000. But now, following analysis by a task and finish group, councillors are closing the scheme to new applicants, saying it will be otherwise retained in its current form until at least April 2014.
The group said despite the obvious benefits of the scheme, one major concern was the lack of checks on whether the tokens were being used appropriately. Another problem was the issue of whether or not the tokens were being stockpiled.
Cllr David Jones, who headed up the task and finish group, said: “This scheme is meeting a real need to people whose lives are affected by disability.
“There was an enormous feeling that the scheme should not be closed immediately, it should be continued.”
Cllr Jones said the group was evenly divided on whether to take in new applicants this year. Up to 60 residents could be affected by the closure with the majority of existing users needing the tokens for medical and other similar reasons.
Cllr Colin Bungey said he was worried people in need would be adversely affected.
“I would be against restricting as it could be penalising people who are in exceptional hardship,” he said.
Cllr Denise Jones said: “In all this we are looking at statistics but we are actually dealing with individuals and people whose lives may suddenly become very difficult.”
Despite the concerns, councillors voted to close the scheme to new applicants on a trial basis with the task and finish group to report back to the committee in October of this year.