A disabled mum won back her Taxicard — unfairly cancelled by London Councils due to DWP delays with her PIP benefit reassessment — with support from WinVisible and her MP. London Councils who oversee Taxicard, said they were willing to make “an exception” in Ms A’s case, given her hardship and distress.
After lobbying by WinVisible, this “exception” was made general policy — which will help many disabled people otherwise wrongly denied Taxicard.
We have to prove we are eligible for the Taxicard subsidised fares by showing a current DWP PIP letter. Taxicard staff were unhelpful to Ms A:
“When I telephoned Taxicard they said that they could not reinstate my Taxicard because my PIP has not been renewed and the end of my PIP was last September 2021. They did not accept that my PIP was being reviewed and I am still in receipt of the payments.
London Councils then said that I need to reapply and they have cancelled my Taxicard.”
Denying Taxicard to disabled people, especially who are still getting PIP, is clearly discriminatory, combined with sexism against disabled women whose word is often dismissed.
Ms A then spent at least £80 more than usual on cab fares. She has chronic fatigue and as a mother, has to take her child to places, so she is unable to economise on trips.
We pointed out how the loss of Taxicard puts more financial pressure on disabled people, adding to benefit stress and the cost of living crisis. Under the Equality Act, London Councils has a duty to eliminate discrimination, in this case against disabled people who can’t prove our eligibility, through no fault of our own.
London Councils decided to “amend our processes in such circumstances, allow a level of flexibility and issue a temporary card in such cases.” (Andy Rollock, Mobility Services Manager, 13 October 2022). We asked how staff and users would be informed. London Councils wants to investigate the “hostile and unbending attitude” which Ms A met with – she was about to give up but then contacted WinVisible – but having to relive it and provide all the details is too much work for her.
On 17 October, London Councils Leader Cllr Georgia Gould (Camden) testified to Parliamentarians about the impact of the cost of living crisis – but London Councils neglected to help its disabled Taxicard users after DWP delays were publicised in the national news (June 2022) and staff knew there is a backlog.
We asked London Councils to compensate Ms A and others for our extra costs incurred, but they refused. Disabled people who have unfairly lost Taxicard should not be penalised. London Councils could credit users with more Taxicard trips, as each borough sets a maximum number of trips allowed.
Ms A said: “Rather than a hostile rude unhelpful person at the other end of the phone, we are all human and deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity — ultimately we should all have a right to access services like everybody else, even with invisible disabilities. I wasted time and energy trying to get my Taxicard back which impacted my health. I really want this to help others now moving forward.”
She described a previous time in 2020 when her Taxicard was unfairly suspended. A taxi driver refused to drop her and her young child at the destination address. He stopped the taxi and shouted at Ms A and her child to get out, witnessed by passers-by who came over to comfort them. The ComCab driver was swearing at them — and refused to take any payment. Ms A rang Taxicard while this was happening but got no support. Later, she tried to book, only to be told her Taxicard had been suspended. Customer services said the reason was, she had not paid her last fare! Yet Ms A had reported the incident to Taxicard. They failed to help with the complaint, instead she was penalised.
Campaigning together for this win, women raised other problems and changes we want, including importantly for women’s safety.
Taxicard is unreliable. Despite booking in advance, often a taxi doesn’t come and women are late for hospital and other important appointments. Women describe being left stranded, sometimes late at night which is scary and dangerous. The job is not allocated until just before time, and some drivers discriminate against disabled passengers, so don’t accept the job. Those of us who are women of colour experience that if you are Black and a wheelchair user hailing a taxi in the street, taxis with their light on will definitely pass you by. One woman left Taxicard as it is unreliable and you don’t get treated well. Another woman of colour said that taxi drivers object that her electric wheelchair will break their ramps, and described her anxiety booking a cab as you don’t know how you will be treated. She ends up getting buses (which may be delayed, may be occupied by another wheelchair user), take much longer so it’s more tiring, and are not door-to-door.
Another woman said she asked Taxicard to put on their system to tell the driver to phone her on arrival as she is blind, but drivers are not told and send her a text. When a cab hadn’t arrived after waiting 40 minutes for a return journey, she cancelled the booking. Taxicard took off four trips, not two, from her allocation.
Women hail a taxi in the street but the driver won’t accept Taxicard if they are not in ComCab, as only ComCab has the contract — women who are disabled and living with chronic fatigue have to walk further to find transport. We demand that London Councils make other companies and minicabs part of the scheme, making it easier to get a cab.
We call on London Councils to act on these issues.