Total Mobility A Total Mess
The independence of people with disabilities is being impeded by ongoing arguments between central and local Government over who is primarily responsible for the Total Mobility scheme, according to the Association of Blind Citizens.
Its President, Jonathan Mosen, says the subsidised taxi programme has made a huge difference to the ability of blind and vision impaired people to participate fully and independently in their communities. But the scheme which once operated under a set of broadly agreed national criteria now has very different rules based on where a person lives.
"These rules, devised and applied by each regional council, stipulate the level of subsidy, the number of vouchers that can be allocated to an individual in a given period, and even who is entitled to access the scheme," says Jonathan Mosen.
"While Councils are faced with expanding demand for the scheme, and some resent being involved in the scheme at all, we are told that Central Government's contribution to the scheme is dropping as a percentage of the amount spent. It seems like no arm of Government really wants to take charge of this programme. We're the meat in the sandwich, and we're starting to see very dangerous moral judgements being made about when the scheme can and can't be used."
The Association of Blind Citizens believes the time is right for the Ministers of Transport, Local Government, and Disability Issues to take steps to bring some national consistency back to the scheme.
"We're calling on the Ministers to convene a Total Mobility Summit as a matter of urgency. It needs to be attended by representatives of Total Mobility users, the taxi industry, regional councils and central Government. This scheme has made a significant difference to the dignity and freedom of movement of people with disabilities. Its erosion is also making a significant difference to our ability to be full participants in society," Jonathan Mosen concluded.