A big win for Painful Journeys
Published on 25 July 2018 04:40 PM
There’s been some very good news as Age UK and our campaigners have scored a major victory in the call for the Government to ensure older people receive better transport to and from hospital.
Earlier today the Department for Transport published their Inclusive Transport Strategy, including several mentions of the need for these improvements, which was the focus of our Painful Journeys campaign, launched in October of last year.
This is a positive step not just because this is an important issue, but because it was absent from the draft strategy published in November. This is proof positive that our voices have been heard and made a difference.
Recognition at last
In the ministerial foreword for the policy paper, Nusrat Ghani, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, says that ‘Delivering the ambitions set out in this Strategy will require work across Government, for instance improving journeys to hospitals.’
Later, in wording that comes directly from our campaign, the paper reveals that ‘The draft AAP [Accessibility Action Plan] consultation received a number of responses highlighting that access to transport to take people to hospital (e.g. local buses, National Health Service directly provided services or taxis and PHVs [Private Hire Vehicles]) was an issue of concern to disabled and older people.
‘Consultation responses highlighted the desire of older people to be able to travel to hospital appointments within a reasonable time and in an affordable way.’
How you’ve helped
These responses came in a variety of ways. These included a giant card sent to the Minister, filled with 150 messages from older people asking her to improve their journeys, the Chair of the Transport Select Committee led an open letter supported by other leading charities, and 1,000 campaigners sending personalised emails via a call to action on the Age UK website. The Government says ‘We recognise the importance of disabled and older people being able to access transport to take them to hospital. It is clear however that this issue requires a co-ordinated, cross-Departmental and cross-agency approach. DfT will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), including through the newly established Inter-Ministerial Group on Disabled People and Society, as well as local authorities to identify solutions to address the problems which have been identified.’
Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams says of the publication: ‘The Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy contains some good news for older people and, in particular, we welcome its recognition of the importance of better hospital transport. We hope the actions committed to in the Strategy will lead to tangible improvements in local areas and we will be holding the Government to account for delivering on them.’
Words of warning
‘However, there remains a threat to the future of community transport, on which many disabled and older people rely,’ continues Caroline. ‘This is because of draft Government guidance that contains a proposed requirement on volunteer minibus drivers to acquire driving licences costing a thousand pounds a time, spelling the end for many local community transport services, including those run by local Age UKs. The Government must look at this issue again, otherwise they will stand accused of acting in ways that undermine the good intentions in the Strategy published today.’