Disability freedom passes - Southwark Council

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Thursday 17 June 2010 11.48pm
I don't know if anyone else on here gets one, but I have had real difficulty getting mine renewed this year, and wondered if anyone else was having trouble.

Back in March I got a letter and an application form, which I duly filled in and handed in at the one stop shop in Spa Road on 16th March. My old pass was due to run out on the 31st March, so I thought they could have been a bit more timely in sending out the forms, but had been told there was an extension being granted for the old passes so we could still use them until 31st May. This sounded like ample time for the forms to be processed. I reasoned that since the forms had been sent out by Southwark, they surely must know how many to expect back and assign staff accordingly. I phoned at the end of April just to check, and was told they had been "overwhelmed by the number of forms" and would get back to me. I phoned again and was told the phone lines to the people doing the forms were down and they would ring me. I phoned a third time, and was told they couldn't speak to anyone because they were "snowed under".

31st May came and went, and now I am having to pay rather a lot of money in bus fares to get to appointments (I am on income support, so this is really a big deal for me). Part of my disability, which I won't go unto here, requires me to attend rather a lot of appointments.

When I worked for Southwark, the bus passes were dealt with by the area offices and every two years we would count up the number of passes and estimate the number of admin workers and how many hours it would take to get them all done. It usually took about a fortnight.

I contacted a local councillor, who said to leave it with them. Hooray I thought. 2 days later the manager in charge phoned me to check who my key worker is (I gave her the info)she wasn't in her office when she phoned me, so couldn't tell me anything..That was a week and a half ago and since then silence has descended once more.

sorry this has gone on a bit, but has anyone else had these problems? Am I the only one? I don't seem to be able to get to talk to anyone who knows what is going on. I know the Transport Act 2000 (it tightened up the criteria for eligibility) has made the whole process more complicated but most other boroughs seem to have coped.
Friday 18 June 2010 10.01am
That's terrible AuntiePat,

I had heard about the debacle months ago, but thought all had been sorted out, what did southwark say what the problem was exactly...
Friday 18 June 2010 12.46pm
A friend of mine who's a support worker suggests showing your old pass and demanding to travel. It's not your fault there's a delay etc. It's currently working for his clients. The delay is all over London. Councils aren't giving a proper explanation but there has been a lovely new piece of software involved.
Friday 18 June 2010 11.25pm
Very sorry to hear this, Auntie Pat. I had dreadful problems with SC's imcompetence, two years ago. I had a Freedom Pass for a number of years, on health grounds, but - one year before I was 60 - they decided to refuse me!

This led to a seemingly never-ending and extremely distressing saga, culminating with me addressing the Scrutiny Committee about the departments 'bad practice', delays and other relevant matters.

I had already appealed and I did receive my FP in the end - but six months later, I received a letter rejecting my appeal! I was 'supposed' to have received that letter many months prior.

I also received a cheque,reimbursing me for monies spent. They even managed to cock that up - in my favour!

This all followed a mass of bad publicity about SC's handling of the renewal - which caused problems for hundreds of people - and they were, supposedly, wrapped over the knuckles,giving assurances it wouldn't happen again!

The Freedom Pass HQ told me, at the time, that SC was the worst in the UK, regarding the handling of renewals.

I would suggest you contact your Councillor again, your GP and the Leader of the Council. Write to the Southwark News.

Good luck - be tenacious!
Saturday 19 June 2010 11.17pm
Thank you.

I have to say that at this stage I have become somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing and the thought of trying to deal with Southwark Council is quite daunting. I'm not a very assertive person and even though I have quite clearly been lied to by various council employees, I haven't got the stamina to challenge them!

I had a read through the Council's Scrutiny committee reports on line and was appalled at what people went through 2 years ago. That this is happening again just shows how much contempt Southwark council has for some of its most vulnerable citizens.
Sunday 20 June 2010 7.58am
London Councils (the London Boroughs' "Trade Association") issued an instruction to the National Rail Companies at the end of May requesting that they withdraw any passes carrying a 31 March 2010 expiry date where people attempted to use these from 1 June 2010 onwards. This implies that they believe all legitimate holders will now have been issued with renewed passes and that anyone attempting to use an out-of-date one is no longer entitled to the facility. I'd suggest that the problems with renewals in Southwark are reported to London Councils (http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk).
Sunday 20 June 2010 10.14pm
I did write to the London Councils, but they referred me back to Southwark, as it is Southwark's mess.
I'm dreading tomorrow, when I am going to once again phone the council to find out what is going on. The last two times I ended up in tears of frustration.
Monday 21 June 2010 12.24pm
Don't mean to sound cynical but I wonder if renameing this thread "Local Councillor Unwilling or Unable to Help Disabled Pensioner?" might cut through some red tape?

So sorry to hear of your tears and frustration, Auntie Pat. Hope it'll get sorted soon.
Monday 21 June 2010 1.43pm
I really feel for you, AuntiePat and understand completely.

Call the Council's main switchboard and ask to whom you should make your official complaint. They HAVE to give it to you and they HAVE to acknowledge it.
Monday 21 June 2010 10.06pm
aoibhneas - the problem is not with the councillors, but with the officers. I had a very nice pm from a councillor offering to help.
Last night I got a reply to an email I sent on 27th May (yeah, I know) no apology, asking me for info they already have and offering a temporary pass,but no idea how to get one.I replied, asking for clarification on why there was such a delay, no reply today.

I will phone tomorrow and find out who I should make an official complaint to.
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