Published on 06 December 2018 02:05 PM
Age UK Reading statement regarding Reading Borough Council Consultation on Changes to the Concessionary Fares Scheme for Access Pass Holders
You can read the consultation here:
Age UK Reading strongly opposes the proposed changes laid out within this consultation. We believe that for many service users, the additional proposed cost will be prohibitive and dissuade them from using the ReadiBus as often, or to stop using it at all. Consequently, they will not access the services to which they were being taken and lose their support network.
The Effect on Older people
The immediate focus of this consultation should be the effect on older people. Many cannot afford £5 every time they want to go out of the home and will see their world shrink back to the four walls of their home. This change creates not just a financial but a psychological barrier for them to overcome in order to begin or continue to access the services that they need. This is because older people who have not been in social situations for prolonged periods often lack confidence, and every little barrier in place is another reason for them to decide to put off engaging with society for another day. Not engaging with society also means not engaging with the support network outside their home of friends, charity workers, volunteers at their place of religion or community workers.
With this change we fear that many would simply choose not to go out. Staying at home will increase their loneliness, and experience of disability. It will accelerate cognitive and physical decline. It will increase their reliance on the Health Service and Adult Social Care. It will be a false economy in the longer term.
The Effect on the Community
If fewer older people are able to attend the many community groups and support services that Reading has on offer the groups may close. This is a lose/lose situation for Reading. It is no good having services for vulnerable clients on offer if those clients can’t reach them.
Many of the services that Reading Borough Council itself funds, or part funds are reliant on Readibus support. It is counter-productive to make it more difficult for vulnerable people to access them.
Services that are no longer funded by the council (since the cuts of 15/16) have had to become more business-like and charge a fee to survive. Clients who use these services will now be forced to pay for both the ReadiBus and the increased fee for the service itself. A double hit. The services lost clients when they first had to put up their fees and if this goes ahead it is very likely that the further client loss will result in services having to close.
Therefore this cut is not just to ReadiBus. It is a cut to all the voluntary sector organisations who provide services to support these vulnerable groups.
A Strategically Unsound Proposal.
We know that there is a crisis in the NHS and Adult Social Care. We know that there is a growing population of older people. There are strategies in place to combat loneliness and to support people to live well for longer in their own homes. The Health and Wellbeing Board have identified a strategic priority to reduce loneliness and social isolation. On page 16 they say:
“Over the next 3 years we will focus on actions that: Improve the quality of people’s community connections as well as the wider services which help these relationships to flourish – such as access to transport and digital inclusion”
Reading Borough Council’s Market Position Statement says on page 7 that “support to access services in the community” is one of the most important things to their service users.
Improving people’s wellbeing and engagement with community support, can keep them healthy and less reliant on the NHS. This needs accessible, door-to-door transport. Without this, the ability of NHS staff, Social Workers and Charities to help vulnerable individuals to live well at home, accessing relevant support is undermined and older people will be more reliant on more expensive NHS and Adult Social Care services. This problem will grow in proportion to the growing population. It will be a lot more expensive in the long run.
We hope that Reading Borough Council will reconsider this proposal with a long term and strategic view as well as taking into account short term money saving opportunities.