March 22, 2023

Fare deal for those supporting passengers with a disability to access public transport

By Austin Duxbury, Assistant Head, Piper Hill Post 16  Dept, Wythenshawe 

Piper hill logo for GM Poverty ActionStudents at Piper Hill’s Post 16 department in Wythenshawe have been experiencing first-hand the impact of rising costs and funding cuts in schools and have decided to try to do something about it.

With schools having to find funds for combined energy bills for this autumn and winter that in many cases have more than trebled on 2020-21 levels there is little left in the budget to cover the myriad of other costs schools face each term. This includes the cost of staff bus and tram fares as they support students to become confident users of public transport in Manchester.

Piper Hill is a Specialist support school and all of the students need additional support. In the Post 16 department the focus is on a curriculum centred around developing students independent living skills and readiness for life after college. Being able to confidently access public transport is an essential part of this curriculum and without the support of another adult or for some students, two adults this is not possible.

There are many reasons that students require additional support on public transport, some of these relate to managing significant mobility challenges whilst other students need to be able to rely on someone to manage the social interaction required to take a bus or tram and support them to safely navigate their journey from where they get on to their destination.

Piper Hill student on a bus with supporter for GM Poverty ActionCurrently somebody who is entitled to a disability travel pass can travel for free on public transport but anybody supporting them to access this has to pay the full ticket price. In Manchester these costs must be met by the person with the disability, and this means that despite them having free travel for themselves they are paying out for the ticket required by the people who they need to support them. In most instances travelling alone and without support is not an option for these passengers which means their right to free travel is effectively being taken away, or in the case of Piper Hill students it is paid for from very limited school funds. This is proving to be a significant barrier for our students, their families and members of our wider community with SEND in accessing local facilities, support groups and leisure opportunities.

The current much publicised bus price cap campaign has only increased the cost of travel for many Manchester residents. Before the price change a single journey from our Post 16 department to Wythenshawe town centre cost £1.50, now it costs £2. What is being promoted as a price cut is a de facto price increase for all passengers taking shorter local journeys.

A committee of Piper Hill students have met with a range of concerned community stakeholders and groups to discuss how they can work with TfGM to introduce free travel for anyone supporting somebody who is entitled to hold a disability travel pass. These organisations have pledged their support for the student’s campaign as they support people and their families who are directly impacted by this issue and are all too aware of how this limits their opportunities to fully engage with their local community.

People who rely on the support of someone else to use public transport for their wellbeing and independence could benefit hugely. It is something that is offered by other councils across the country but not currently here in Manchester. Why?

If you would like to support the Piper Hill campaign please send an email to the High School.