Money saving move to take transport away from vulnerable in Norfolk and make them use public transport under fire
- Credit: Colin Finch
Some of Norfolk's vulnerable people could be told that the county council will no longer pay for special transport to help them travel - and they will need to rely on public transport such as buses.
With Norfolk County Council's budgets under increasing pressure as the government shakes up how authorities are funded, adult social services needs to save £54m by 2022.
As part of an effort to cut £1.7m over two years from the £6.1m spent annually on travel and transport for people, officers want councillors to agree to controversial changes.
It would see all people who get adult social care services referred to a team which would assess whether they could potentially travel on public transport or on contract buses, after training.
All service users assessed as suitable would have to undertake travel independence training.
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Anyone assessed as being suitable for that would have to willingly participate, or the council could withdraw specialist transport.
Some assessments in specific areas have already been done. Of 380 assessed, 258 were not considered suitable for travel training, but 116 were. Of those who were, 29 opted not to take part, while 45 were travel trained.
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The council says, as well as saving money, such as through decommissioning of specialist buses, there are benefits to service users and their families by helping people to become more independent.
They cited an example of man with learning disabilities who had relied on his parents to pick him up from work for more than 20 years, but who, following training, now uses a bus.
The council stressed it would not be ruled by savings over the safety of service users.
A spokeswoman said: 'We will only travel train people if we think they are suitable. Following the travel training, we only support people to access public transport if we think they can do so safely.'
But Age UK Norfolk's Linda Matthews said: 'Age UK Norfolk would not support any cuts to transport for older people, many older people live rurally and have no access to any other transport.'
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said he had similar concerns and his group would be questioning the move at next week's adult social care committee.