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Hackney's Disabled People's Freedom Pass Group

Hackney's Disabled People's Freedom Pass Group. HACKNEY’S DISABLED PEOPLE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM PASS

(see below for how to apply or re-apply for your freedom pass)

Over 120 disabled residents joined together at Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street on Friday, March 8th 2002 at noon to show we exist! Protesters brought their banners and we let the Council know how we felt!!!

Similarly over 120 people attended the Save The Disabled People’s Freedom Pass Campaign public meeting on Monday February 18th, 2002 at Chats Palace, Brooksby Walk in Homerton. We also linked in with the Unite Conference against all the Hackney cuts at St Luke’s Church on March 2nd.

Contact via: email:

The facts so far . . .

Shortly before Christmas 2001, disabled people in Hackney who held a Freedom Pass received a letter stating that the criteria for Freedom Pass applications had changed, the applicant had to be in receipt of Disability Living Allowance higher rate for Mobility or provide supporting evidence from a medical consultant. Previously a GP’s letter - confirming that the applicant had a permanent and substantial impairment – was sufficient.

At a cost of £50,000, a mobility unit has been set up and Hackney’s Freedom Pass claimants are being "assessed" by occupational therapists. To date out of 3000 applicants only half have been approved. This is a very distressing situation for people who depend on the Freedom Pass to travel to see friends, access vital resources such as education and health care; indeed have a life. Disabled people are traditionally poor and isolated. Hackney Council, by targeting those who are not even receiving cash help in the form of DLA, will exacerbate this and there will be casualties. Some of the groups affected are people from the Afro Caribbean Community subject to Sickle Cell disease, people living with Aids and HIV, those with invisible and varying impairments such as ME and MS and Mental Health System Survivors who might now only qualify on a discretionary basis.

Hackney Council’s justification for this draconian cut is based shamelessly on financial considerations, the need to balance a deficit budget. However their own Social Service Committee minutes state that the projected cost of Freedom Pass re-assessments will cost £50,000, money spent inflicting pain and misery on thousands of vulnerable people. The Council argues there are too many Freedom Pass holders and claims that disabled people have been telephoning the Social Services Department expressing support for the new policy. Similarly divisive arguments have been used by central government to attack claimants of disability benefit. We believe the take up of the Freedom Pass is in accordance with Hackney’s large population of disabled people.

Hackney Council also says that the new criteria is in line with the Transport Act 2000. In fact, Hackney Council has wilfully misinterpreted the Transport 2000 Act, which makes provision for people with varying and invisible impairments and for those with more than one contributing disability. It has used a web of half-truths to hide this from the media.


To request a simplified version please email us.

This draft contains suggestions only. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of any statement in this work can be accepted by the author or Hackney Disabled People’s Freedom Pass group. If you have suggestions for improvements, amendments, corrections or editing please make them in writing via: email:

Hackney Council’s current assessment procedure for the Freedom Pass fails to address the needs of people whose health and associated care needs fluctuate over time. It also fails many claimants with mental health problems and multiple disabilities. Hackney Council’s Social Services department fails to adequately serve people's needs on a variety of levels. Fundamentally, disabled people and people with impairments, who rely on welfare benefits often have insufficient income to meet all of their essential needs. Poverty and hardship is frequently experienced. Hackney Council’s inflexible attitude towards the Freedom Pass also actively discourages people on benefits from moving into the workforce. These failings must be urgently addressed. In the meantime . .

… suggestions on what to do with Hackney Council’s Freedom Pass letter

First of all, you might like to think about getting involved in our campaign. This might help answer the next question. “Should I bother applying or re-applying?” The Freedom Pass can definitely make a big difference to our lives. It can give us back some feeling of independence and control and bring about a real improvement in our quality of life.

However, the process of applying can be distressing and, if your claim is not successful you may be left feeling that people think you were lying (that is certainly the impression Hackney Council would like to give of its disabled residents).

You may like to get some professional support when completing your application, possibly from a welfare advice worker or law centre. You can find out more at the end of this leaflet.

You may find Hackney Council’s letter, with its questionnaire/tick boxes section irrelevant to your condition and disability and, instead, wish to write a letter/report in reply. The answers you give might be extremely important. Give full answers and ensure that you have mentioned everything that may be possibly relevant. If you have to appeal, the person who deals with your appeal may be less likely to believe you if you mention symptoms for the first time only after the decision goes against you.

If - for example you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E., asthma, arthritis or MS, a Sickle Cell disorder or HIV related illness - all of which can be fluctuating conditions - you can have bad days and better days. (Note: if you use expressions like “good days” it may be assumed that these days you have no problems whatsoever). Hackney Council’s letter is designed NOT to cope with fluctuation conditions or multiple disabilities. People with fluctuating conditions could describe their disabilities based on what they can do on their very worst days. You could then qualify your answer – again on this separate page - by saying that sometimes your illness is not as bad as that all the time. You should be clear how often and to what extent your condition is likely to interrupt your ability to walk or drive, and show that it is not possible to walk or drive regularly.

All questions should relate to your ability (repeatedly and safely) to walk out-of-doors (or drive) or the effect that walking has on your health. Remember that your answers must be truthful. Do not exaggerate your condition, but equally do not underestimate the problems you have because of your condition.

If you have difficulties with English, or with reading or writing, it is important that you get independent help (i.e. from someone not connected to Hackney Council’s Social Services, try the Citizens Advice Bureau) before you submit the letter.

Always make a copy of your answers and keep in a safe place before you send the original.

Examination by Hackney Council’s Mobility Unit

Following your re-application you may be “invited into the office to clarify the supporting evidence”, as they say. Alternatively, or in addition, you may be examined by an occupational therapist (O.T.) employed by Hackney Council.

At present there seems to be little information about who will be “invited” or called for examination. If you are “invited”, Hackney Council should make clear to you why and whether it is likely that you will be physically examined and by whom. (You may, for example, have reasonable grounds why you should not be physically examined by a member of the opposite sex). If you cannot attend the examination because you are too ill to travel, you could ask to be examined at home. You could have a carer or advocate accompanying you if you wish. If you visit the Mobility Unit for the assessment after March 31, 2002, you should try to claim travel expenses for you and your companion. Make sure you give the Mobility Unit all the relevant information.

Suggestion for the examination

It is vitally important that you tell the O.T. in as much detail as possible about your condition and how it affects your mobility. Don't assume the O.T. knows all about your condition. Give full details of all your disabilities. Take a list of any medicines which your GP is prescribing for you, or has prescribed since you first experienced difficulties with mobility. Don't forget to include any and all medicines and mobility aids you need and use.

If you have a fluctuating condition - you may find that you are having a better day when you go for your examination. Make sure you tell the O.T. exactly what you are like on a bad day. This is particularly relevant if the O.T. asks you to perform an activity such as walking a short distance.

Make a note of everything you want to tell the O.T. in advance if you feel you will be nervous during the examination. This way you won't forget to mention anything important. YOU ARE STRONGLY RECOMMENDED TO TAKE A FRIEND OR ADVISER TO THE EXAMINATION if you feel you need moral support.

The decision

Allegedly, a decision will be made on your entitlement to a Freedom Pass based on your answers to the questionnaire in the letter and the opinion of the Mobility Unit staff on how this meets with Hackney Council’s criteria. However, their agenda is to cull as many of us as possible from getting the Freedom Pass. Remember that although Hackney Council’s criteria falls short of that set out by the DETR Guidance to the Transport Act 2000 it has yet to be legally challenged in the courts.

How to appeal if you are turned down for a Freedom Pass

If you receive a negative decision regarding your claim, Social Services should send you a Form FP8 with the refusal notification. There is no time limit for your appeal but when you file your appeal Social Services must send you written confirmation (of your appeal) within 10 working days of receiving it. They must review the appeal and make a further decision within 21 days of receiving it. Social services will have internal medical assessors, usually O.T.s, scrutinising applications and must have other officers (independent from the original decision makers) scrutinising any appeal. Your appeal should, if necessary, set out again what you put in your original application. It should also address any wrong conclusions that the Council officers have drawn. If no information – or an inadequate amount of information - has been obtained from your GP or (if relevant) your consultant(s) then you should stress that the appeal officer must contact them for evidence.

You should also save any receipts for travel you make after March 31st 2002. Ideally, if a test case is won, people might successfully sue or claim against Hackney Council for unfair decisions, losses and damages.

Challenging a decision can be complex so it is recommended that you seek advice as soon as possible from DaRT, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Hackney’s Legal Advice Centre, or your local welfare rights unit.* It is also worth talking to your GP to see if s/he will support your case in writing. A report from a consultant may prove to be effective (difficult though we all know it is to get one!). * Yet to confirm which welfare agencies have the capacity to advise, are willing to do so and, most importantly, can competently do so.

Where to get advice and representation (see end section)

If you are outside the appeal period limit, your case might be reconsidered in certain circumstances, for example, if you can provide Hackney Council with new information about your ability to walk or drive.

About your illnesses or disabilities

Explain what is wrong with you. If you use the term 'ME' or ‘MS’ don't leave it just at that. You need to explain everything in more detail. For example, the following statements might be relevant, but don't use anything here that does not apply to you. You must be truthful as Hackney Council may check it out with your G.P.:

The effect of walking 100 metres with ME might be fatigue and pain affecting legs, feet. Inflammation of the tendons in all these areas, causing severe pain.

Musculo-skeletal regional pain disorder affecting feet, legs, shoulders, neck and back

Trapped nerves causing severe pain when moving neck, arms, left leg, right leg, etc

Remember to list all your disabilities and all the medication you take where the side effects adversely affect your mobility or your ability to drive, even if you only take them when you really need them, including the strength and frequency of the dose. They do not have to be the drugs your G.P. prescribes.

Hackney Council’s questionnaire asks for a report from a hospital consultant (telling them about your illness or impairment). If you've seen lots of G.P.s, hospital doctors, O.T.s or specialists, list them all on a separate piece of paper and attach it to your reply. If possible include their names, specialism, address, and telephone number, plus the dates you saw them. It all helps! If you have any letters from them giving a diagnosis for your condition, send a copy off with your reply.

Some insight into “Severe Discomfort”:

“Discomfort” can mean either pain or breathlessness. Extreme fatigue and stress may also may be taken into account. It has been accepted that discomfort is subjective and that some people have higher pain thresholds than others.

You may need to show that you experience severe discomfort.

When deciding what discomfort you experience when walking the following factors may be taken into account-

The distance over which you can walk without experiencing severe discomfort.

The speed at which you can walk

The length of time for which you can walk

The manner in which you can walk

You may need to show that you experience severe discomfort even when using your artificial aid. It does not matter whether the severe discomfort occurs at the time of your walk or later. What counts is that the discomfort is a direct result of your attempt to walk.

Where you live and whether or not you work should not taken into account.

Why you may not be able to drive:

There are many reasons why you might be refused a licence to drive a motor vehicle. It is worth checking to see if your condition fits into any of these categories. Again, to make the Act easier to implement, the DETR guidance states that it is not a condition of entitlement that the disabled person should have to apply for and be refused a driving license – “which would be unduly burdensome for everyone involved”. Yet again, Hackney Council has twisted the guidance to meet its own perverse aims.

There are many reasons you might be refused a licence to drive:

Many severe psychiatric illness or mental disorders

Epileptic events (seizures or fits)

Sudden attacks or disabling giddiness, fainting or blackouts

Severe mental handicap

A pacemaker, defibrillator or anti-ventricular tachycardia device fitted


Angina (heart pain) while driving

Parkinson's disease

Any other chronic neurological condition

A serious problem with memory

A major or minor stroke

Any type of brain surgery, brain tumour.

Severe head injury involving in-patient treatment at hospital

Continuing/permanent difficulty in the use of arms or legs which affects your ability to control a vehicle

Any visual disability which affects BOTH eyes. (do not declare short/long sight or colour blindness)

But dependence on or misuse of alcohol, drugs or chemical will NOT enable you to qualify on these grounds for a Freedom Pass.

One example why you may not qualify for a license may be that you lose consciousness. This can take many forms, e.g. unwitnessed [presumed] loss of consciousness/loss or altered awareness with seizure markers. (This is the DVLA category for those where there is a strong clinical suspicion of epilepsy but no definite evidence: The seizure markers act as indicators and are not absolutes - unconsciousness for more than five minutes; amnesia greater than five minutes; injury; tongue biting; incontinence; remain conscious but with confused behaviour; headache post attack.)

Don’t blame your doctor and/or consultants for Hackney Council’s miserliness!

When the Transport Act was amended and guidance was issued to local boroughs and councils, the DETR suggested that G.P.s should not have to be approached by applicants because other health professionals, for example, occupational therapists, may be better placed to provide appropriate advice. Hackney Council has chosen to twist and misinterpret this, for its own perverse reasons, to try and exclude G.P.s from the process. If the Council chooses to investigate your application it is obliged to write to your doctor asking for answers to “factual questions”. You could check with the Council and with your doctor precisely what these “factual questions” are going to be and satisfy yourself that the GP is fully aware of the facts regarding your condition.

However doctors, psychiatrists and occupational therapists may be woefully ignorant!

There is a 'woeful lack of knowledge' of who should be disqualified from driving (and would therefore qualify for a Freedom Pass). UK researchers, writing in a recent Psychiatric Bulletin, reported the results of a study which found that less than 40% of psychiatrists are aware of the rules governing driving and mental illness set down by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and are therefore not in a position to advise their patients correctly. Doctors and O.T.s fare little better.

Further suggestions on how to reply to Hackney Council’s Freedom Pass letter. Don’t be afraid to ask welfare advice workers – whereever you may be able to access them.

We hope more suggestions and advice will be available shortly from our website –

This draft contains suggestions only. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of any statement in this work can be accepted by the author or Hackney Disabled People’s Freedom Pass campaign. Having positive feedback is extremely useful in developing this leaflet. If you have suggestions of your own please contact us via:

Hackney Disabled Peoples’ Freedom Pass Group, c/o Email:


Remember: Hackney's new criteria for eligibility to the concessionary travel FREEDOM PASS is not in line with the Transport Act 2000 because it excludes disabled people with variable conditions and with multiple contributing factors

Hackney's policy is in direct conflict with the Government's Strategy Guidance on Concessionary Fares for the Disabled which states:

It should not be necessary for the effect of the impairment to be the same throughout the period - it may worsen or diminish at different times – [but local authorities should nevertheless satisfy themselves that it will have (or be likely to have) such an effect throughout the period].

A person may have more than one impairment/disability which would cause them to be eligible for the concession.

Hackney Council has chosen not to published either of the two (above) factors in its literature when asking applicants to re-apply under the new criteria.

For advice contact by e-mail:

DaRT/Transport for All, telephone: 020-7214-2111; e-mail:

Hackney Citizens Advice Bureax – 0870 126 4013 (between 1pm and 4pm)

Hackney Community Law Centre – 020 8985 8364 (between 10am and 1pm)

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for Legal Services Commission funding to obtain advice from a solicitor specialising in Community Care.

Hackney Disabled People's Freedom Pass Group made its presence known at Hackney's EYDP event on June 4th, 2003. Photo depicts members and supporters standing behind one of the group's banners - on the European Year of Disabled People bus.


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