Mental Health & Public Transport
Posted Friday 8 April 2011
This is a guest post from the Mental Health Action Group (MHAG) in Derbyshire.
Back in 2008 the Government introduced national concessionary bus passes. People with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and sensory disabilities were eligible but as you may well be aware, and to our cost, they did not include a category for people with mental health problems — our difficulties are sometimes less obvious!
Up to this point anyone with an ongoing mental health condition in Derbyshire had been given a discretionary concession. Unfortunately, this went out the window with the introduction of the national concession as the Council could no longer afford it. So many of us became worse off after the new national concession came into play.
Mental health is now simply included in the catch-all category (g) “non-qualification for a driving licence”.
When we started campaigning on this issue we discovered that, lo and behold, the body advising the Government on transport disability issues the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) did not have even one member out of its 21 strong committee who had experience of mental health difficulties. Worse still we uncovered a great deal of ignorance of mental health within the Department of Transport itself.
“There is a qualifying category for mental health,” said one fairly senior civil servant, “there it is, category (f) - learning disabilities.” Aargh!! We wanted to yell. Where do we start to unravel the layers of ignorance and exclusion around mental health which in this case have resulted in discriminatory legislation?
Following umpteen trips to London to meet with two Transport Ministers, a number of senior civil servants and with DPTAC we discovered that without hard evidence it seems that the Government will do nothing to redress the unfair situation that this legislation has produced. Even then it is unlikely they will do anything in the current economic climate but we must provide evidence for the future. We are determined that the Department of Transport will never forget mental health that easily again!
This week we launched our Public Transport & Mental Health survey which aims to gather evidence on this unfair situation. We also want it to show, through your experiences, the important link between good access to transport and good mental health.
We have extended the survey to cover not just the impact of concessionary fares but also any other barriers and difficulties. Many of our members have reported, for example, that even when they managed to get a bus pass they were promptly challenged by a bus driver who said to them “What have you got a pass for? You look alright to me”. Must we face obstacles and humiliation at every stage of our journey?
There are many national surveys about transport but precious few, if any, that focus in on mental health. We hope that this will become a valuable case for change.
We hope you will agree with us and give us the benefit of your experience and recommendations by filling out our survey.
Niki Glazier, on behalf of the Mental Health Action Group
MHAG is an independent user led campaign group launched in October 2006. We emerged from what was Derbyshire Patients’ Council which itself ran a successful national campaign to reform benefits for in-patients. The issue of transport concessions looks set to become an equally long running campaign for us.
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