Disabled encouraged to use buses – as services slashed
Cornwall Council has been consulting on a policy to encourage disabled people to use public transport at the same time it was announced that funding for bus services would be cut by '£500,000'.
Consultations will be run until November by the council over changes to its Adult Care, Health and Wellbeing transport and domiciliary charging policy. It is estimated the changes, which would see front line care workers discuss alternative transport options with service users, could save up to £3 million if adopted.
However, the public body has come under criticism from the county's leading disability group, which said it was 'concerned' that disabled people's independence may be compromised. Bus operators in the county announced last week that they would have to withdraw a number of services after being told funding would be cut by half a million pounds.
Cathy Glaser from St Breward, whose daughter Esme has Down's Syndrome, attended one of the consultations on transport changes. Esme, 27, frequently catches the bus to attend a nearby day centre, but is about to see her service cut.
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"Esme uses public transport as much as she possibly can," said Mrs Glaser. "She has been using the bus doing exactly what they would like her to do, then we find out the bus route is going to stop.
"If they cut the bus route she will certainly need help to get to the day centre.
"It's her independence gone out the window. All they go on about is person-centred care for everybody, to encourage independence, especially people with learning difficulties, so that they are a person, so they are not invisible and we have to encourage that."
The council announced at the beginning of September that it may have to slash £24 million from its next budget, on top of £19 million already planned. However, a spokesman for Disability Cornwall said while the service appreciated that the council faced tough decisions it was concerned it had not been engaged with. He said: "[We] are very concerned to learn that Cornwall Council is withdrawing funding for numerous rural contracted bus services. [It] appears to say one thing by encouraging adults who are eligible for social care services to use public transport... but then does another, such as withdraw those very services. We are concerned disabled people's ability to remain independent may be compromised and Cornwall Council needs to be held accountable if this proves to be the case."
A Cornwall Council spokesman said it was consulting on a new transport policy for adult care to ensure it is "being fair" to people across Cornwall. She said: "This includes 'eligibility criteria' – a set of questions that a front-line care worker would go through with a person to discuss what alternative transport options are available, if transport is required. One of these criteria is to check whether using public transport is an option, perhaps with additional support. If a suitable bus or train route does not exist then this option is discounted."