Freedom travel pass to be taken away from mentally ill after Merton Council cuts
Hundreds of vulnerable and mentally-ill residents are set to lose their entitlement to free travel.
Merton Council budget cuts mean more than 400 people in the borough who have serious mental illnesses including schizophrenia, severe bipolar or clinical depression with psychosis will no longer qualify for a Freedom Pass from May 1.
Instead they will now have to prove they have a serious physical disability including loss of limbs, blindness or are deaf, have been refused a driving licence on physical grounds, or have a serious mental impairment affecting “intelligence and social functioning”.
The changes could restrict 400 mentally impaired people from being able to work, travelling to hospital appointments, social groups and therapy sessions – which carers say will only isolate them further.
Janice Johnson, whose son has suffered from schizophrenia for the last 18 years, said: “I think it is pure discrimination against people with mental health problems.
“Other people with disabilities will still have the Freedom Pass.
“What I think is terrible is that a number of older people who have got Freedom Passes, especially in Wimbledon, are affluent and able to pay for transport anyway.
“About 400 people with a mental health illness will lose their pass – people who can ill afford to travel.
“Some of these people don’t have carers to keep an eye on them and these people are going to become completely isolated.”
Discretionary passes, which costs the council £235 a person a year will cease as of May 1, saving the council £70,000.
Councillor Linda Kirby, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “It is unfortunate that Merton Council, like many other councils, have had to withdraw discretionary Freedom Passes because of ongoing budgetary constraints.
“We appreciate the challenge the residents affected may face, and have arranged for our care co-ordinators to work closely with those who are no longer eligible for a statutory freedom pass, to ensure they benefit from alternative support available.”