Lambeth take away Freedom Pass from mental health patients

By Tim Dickens, Editor, at Lambeth Town Hall

More than 500 people with mental health issues in Lambeth could lose free travel on public transport under new criteria.

Cabinet members at a meeting at Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, voted in favour tonight of the new scheme that will slash the number of people granted a discretionary Freedom Pass (DFP). The borough currently has 767 people who use the free pass, each at a cost of about £600.

The council estimates only about 200 people will now be eligible, leaving more than 550 without free travel, and sparking fears that vulnerable adults will be left isolated.

Mental health service user Andrew Ridge, 51, from Brixton, told the BBC he fears he will no longer be eligible: “Although it has not gone, I’ve already started to act as if it’s gone. I don’t feel I can take up new things that I can’t afford to continue.”

One un-named consultee told the council: “If the cuts go ahead it means that some people, even though they suffer from serious, long standing mental health problems and even though they risk social exclusion will have their passes stopped … in this day and age social exclusion is barbaric.”

Lambeth is the third most generous borough in London with discretionary passes, which it doesn’t have to provide by law.

The cabinet member for health, cllr Jim Dixon, told the meeting tonight: “It is regrettable that we have to make this decision but we have to take action. Even with this we will remain one of the most generous boroughs in London.

“Nobody can see we haven’t listened in very great detail to what service users have to say in this.”

Cllr Rachel Heywood added: “In a time of diminishing resources we need to target resources at those who need them most.”

She reminded the meeting that the proportion of people with mental health issues is 12 times higher in Lambeth than the national average.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group in Lambeth, Ashley Lumsden, spoke against the proposed changes.

He told the Blog he was “very upset” with the move.

“I am very frustrated, Lambeth should be a beacon for those with mental health issues. We have just taken a big step backwards.”

Read the proposed eligibility criteria here


  1. A simple act…

    Lambeth council have taken away free bus passes for the mentally ill. To them this may seem like a simple act to help make the cuts forced on them by national government. But this seemingly simple act reveals the callous and bullying approach that Lambeth council have taken in implementing these unnecessary and unjust cuts. They are choosing what they see to be an easy target to make pay for the cuts; for this isn’t the first attack on the mentally ill in Lambeth – the council have already closed down a centre providing vital services for the mentally ill.

    The cuts to those suffering from mental illness are sickening acts and if we do not stand up against these, I strongly fear for what sort of society we have become – that we would deny something as small as a bus pass to the most vulnerable people, for whom this provides a lifeline. Lambeth council see this as a small cut, they do not see the tremendous pain that it will cause to those who depend on it as people’s homes become their prisons.

    Lambeth council attempt to justify their abhorrent actions by claiming that their provision of free bus passes will remain one of the most generous of the London boroughs – but this simply reflects the high level of people suffering from mental health issues in the borough and actually supports the argument that we need to be doing more to address mental health in the borough rather than less. Lambeth’s high rates of people suffering from mental ill health, which is 12 times the national average, will no doubt increase as the cuts plunge more people into poverty and desperation. We should be investing money into running more mental health services for the entire community to promote mental well being and to support those dealing with mental illnesses.

    But instead Lambeth council have chosen what they see to be the easy route – picking on a group who may find it more difficult to organise and speak out. They don’t appear to have predicted that this small act would enrage the rest of the community who refuse to be a part of a society which targets the most vulnerable with such bullying behaviour.

    For me, the withdrawal of the bus pass has brought home to me the horrific realities of these cuts – both national and local – and the sinister ways in which they are falling on the most vulnerable. I am disgusted by those who claim to represent us and urge everyone to resist these in the myriad ways that have and are being demonstrated. Following UK Uncut and Occupy London’s tactics, a particular emphasis on civil disobedience is necessary, as it seems now that only by taking direct action will we stop the cuts and ensure the simple and dignified act of providing bus passes for those who need them.

    Join Lambeth Save Our Services demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall on February 29th and keep in contact for further actions.

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