SNP MSP Alex Neil is calling for action to address a loophole which has left thousands of Lanarkshire residents unable to obtain free bus travel. Free nationwide travel for older and disabled people was introduced in April 2006, replacing a variety of local schemes which each had different eligibility criteria. All those under the old system were automatically transferred to the new system for 12 months. However, when those claiming the lower rate mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance went to reapply this year, they found that they do not qualify under the new system. After pledging his support to a parliamentary motion calling for a full-scale review into the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, Mr Neil said:
“The introduction of a national scheme last year was supposed to make life easier for elderly and disabled people. However, for many people, it has done the exact opposite.
“Strathclyde Passenger Transport was one of the local bodies that gave free travel to low rate mobility claimants – meaning that thousands of people in Lanarkshire have lost their eligibility since the new nationwide scheme was brought in.
“The low rate mobility component is awarded specifically to people who require supervision to travel – is it not right that these people are given concessionary travel?
“Others have been affected too - many people with learning difficulties or mental health problems would benefit from concessionary travel, but the bureaucracy that they face when applying makes this all but impossible.
“The system needs to be looked at again – the eligibility criteria should be extended to include those who receive the lower rate mobility component, and we need to slash some of the red tape that prevents some people from proving that they should be given free travel.”