Freedom pass = Free to Pass?

6 09 2008

Freedom Passes can be confusing to use. Freedom Pass holders are not told when and where they can use it. We have to try and find out for ourselves. What’s worse, it seems that even Transport for London staff don’t know the regulations. We’re all told we can’t use the Freedom Pass on the trains before 9.30am. But check out the official Freedom Pass leaflet LBS07/08 produced by London Councils, who fund the Freedom Passes. Note the first box, ‘Travelling Times’. It says that for the London Overground, ‘holders of the Disabled person’s freedom pass can travel free at all times’.

The London Overground (view map here) runs on a number of lines but it doesn’t cover a very comprehensive area. My guess is it’s easier for staff to control Freedom Pass travel if it’s contained within certain train lines. Therefore national train networks aren’t covered, even though they do operate within the London boroughs. It’s bloody annoying.

I came across this post in an internet forum. Mike notes that the Freedom Pass application form says “See information leaflet LBS07/08 revised Feb 2008 for further details, which will be given to you with your pass”. He never got the leaflet and he can’t find anybody in the Post Office or tube station, who admits to having heard of it.

And no, I’d never seen one either, until Fiona showed me hers.

Fiona tried to stand up for her rights and travelled on an overground train with her Freedom Pass before 9am. The LU staff said they didn’t know anything about the train concessions. She even had a copy of LBS07/08 with her and showed this to them. They refused to believe the regulations stated in the leaflet and fined her. Fiona sent in a complaint and asked for a refund of her ticket. It was denied.

It seems to me, London councils think disabled Londoners don’t or can’t work, therefore don’t need a Freedom Pass before 9.30am. Disabled doesn’t equal old and incapable. In fact, I only know of one disabled person who doesn’t work, and she is incapable. The trains are often the safest means of transport for those with disabilities, as the tube is too crowded and stations are often inaccessible, and bus drivers drive like maniacs and tell Guide Dog owners to either go upstairs or to get off. It’s like a Monopoly game, isn’t it? Three steps forward and two steps back.

My dog came up with an alternative suggestion … hehehe.

Vodpod videos no longer available.





London’s Transport Museum

21 08 2008

I discovered from lilwatchergirl’s blogpost that you can get free entry into the Transport Museum, with a ‘minder’, if you have a Freedom Pass. Whoopee do dar!

What’s interesting is how rude the staff were to her – I will feed back on their ‘professionalism’ after a visit with my Hearing Dog!





Freedom Pass update

20 03 2008

Transport for London have informed me that the expiry date for using Freedom Passes will be extended until May 30th 2008. They have today sent out new forms to disabled Freedom Pass holders for them to take to their GP for renewal. I asked why. Apparently these new forms mean the Freedom Pass will now be extended to cover the whole country.

Wow.

I would still like to be able to use it on the trains before 9.30am so I can get to work earlier!

Checking the Freedom Pass website, it says London’s disabled Freedom Pass holders are entitled to concessions on buses outside London 9.30am – 11pm on the new English Bus Scheme, from 1st April 2008.

I’ll be clarifying this with a personal visit to my local council!





Audiology’s freedom pass to be rude and inefficient

15 03 2008

My Freedom Pass expires on 31 March and my local council kindly sent me a renewal form in January. A Freedom Pass means I can travel around London for free, subject to some restrictions. I went to my local hospital on 30 January and my audiologist Mirza took my renewal forms and accompanying evidence (copy of passport and TV Licence) from me, saying he would send them to the council with the required documentation (my audiogram and a letter stating my hearing loss from the hospital). I made it clear the deadline was 31 March and the forms needed to be sent as soon as possible. No problem. Or so I was told.

In the middle of February, I asked my colleague Amanda to contact my local council and check on the progress of my renewal. They hadn’t received anything. She called the hospital. They gave her the run-around between different departments and eventually she was put through to the right person, after about 30 minutes. This person said there is no application form in my file and that they don’t post out forms for patients anyway. So where is my personal information??? Binned, shredded, mailed, or what?! Does someone now possess a copy of my TV licence and passport?!!!

Grrrrr.

My friend Karen called the council yesterday and asked them to send another renewal form. They said there is a yellow part which my doctor can fill in. What yellow part? Why a different form, and why am I now told my doctor can complete it rather than my audiologist? The doctor would have been a lot easier, quicker, and let’s face it, honest. The council said they would send out the form immediately, by first class mail. Kudos to them.

I walked to the hospital yesterday with Karen and oh boy, was Karen’s back up (she’s brilliant). I had written a letter of complaint explaining the situation, and gave it to the receptionist. It was addressed to Bob, the head audiologist, and asked what had happened to my personal information. The receptionist is one of the rudest people I have ever met, abrupt and condescending don’t even come close. She treated us as if we were the dirt on the bottom of her shoes. She took the letter and took it to Mirza, who then came into reception and started flapping about. He had my file and pulled out my renewal form from the council.

– I will do this letter for you now.

He went to the printer in the receptionist’s office, I could see him flapping about, panicking, then he snapped imperiously at the receptionist,

– This letter is address to Bob. He can deal with this.

And he stormed off.

The receptionist went off with the letter and came back,

– Bob’s busy, you’ll have to come back another day.

Karen said,

– No. We are staying put. We’re not leaving until we get that letter. We’re staying here all night if we have to. We’re not leaving without that letter.

The look on the receptionist’s face was absolutely priceless. She couldn’t believe that someone had actually stood up to her.

She swanned off. In the meantime, Mirza came back into reception with a patient, a young man, who was picking up his earmoulds. Karen was visibly shocked at how rude Mirza was to him, I could tell he was over-exaggerating his speech and being very loud and condescending towards him.

The receptionist came back with Bob. Bob explained, very nicely and calmly, that he’s in the middle of a procedure at the moment and so can’t reply to the letter right now. Karen explained the situation and Bob listened. She said we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain to get here. She said I’ve waited two months for Mirza to send the information. She said now I have missed the deadline as the council also need four weeks to process the renewal. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. She said I’ve been lied to on the phone. She said Mirza had agreed to write the letter then changed his mind and stormed off. She said she was disgusted by Mirza’s rudeness. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. And we want an apology from Mirza.

Bob apologised, and said he would write the letter himself on his laptop on the way home. He asked if I had another appointment booked or needed anything done. I said no, but that I would like to change to another audiologist. Bob said I am welcome to see anyone I like, including him. I’ve seen Bob before and he’s super-duper professional. He explained he’s hard of hearing himself. His attitude was a world apart from Mirza’s and the receptionist’s. Calm, professional, respectful, polite.

I’m now wondering, what gives hearing people the idea that they have a right to be condescending and arrogant towards deaf people?

Or is it that because the NHS provides free hearing aids, the NHS staff think they can be disrespectful towards its’ patients? I know that NHS doctors can be very condescending towards nurses and some patients. Treatment like this in the private sector is unheard of. It’s unthinkable.

Are we now reduced to paying for respect??

Karen’s parting shot,

– Your rude staff need sorting out, they need some management training!

I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and went to visit my doctor’s surgery, and asked if they would sign the form. They said sorry, there should be a yellow part. I’m hoping tomorrow’s post will bring either the form with it’s yellow part or the letter from the hospital.

Sigh. Tomorrow’s a new day. Oh boy.

Score : NHS 0 – Private sector 1

(And no, lucky me, I don’t live in Lewisham!)





24 hour free travel in London

29 01 2008

Ken Livingstone argues for a 24-hour Freedom Pass for the elderly and disabled.

At the moment, you can’t use your Freedom Pass before 9.30am. So if you need to travel to a job and you’re disabled enough to be entitled to a Freedom Pass, you’re stuffed, and have to pay full price for travel. Ken says elderly Londoners tell him they need to travel to appointments and make other trips before 9am (what other trips? a job?! and why are pensioners getting appointments so early in the morning, is this so they can get to work afterwards?!). So Ken wants to provide 24 hour access to London transport by extending the operating hours of the Freedom Pass. I wonder if Ken has listened to disabled Londoners – there are probably far more disabled than elderly Londoners trying to hold down a job. It seems to me that disabled Londoners are an afterthought, a lucky by-product of an advantage given to the elderly.

As travel is now free on buses for the under-18s, half-price for those on income support, and soon-to-be completely free for the elderly and disabled, the burden is heavier on the ordinary commuter. But I’d like to know where all those high rail charges and fare increases are going – so much transport is late, cancelled, dirty, there are few staff around at stations if any, there are no train guards / ticket conductors / tube staff, and generally the transport system is deemed unsafe.

It looks like we’re getting access (and any other improvements) at the price of service quality. Would you agree?