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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Rachael Burford

Hundreds of Freedom Pass applications to be reviewed after Londoner wrongly rejected

Hundreds of applications for free London travel passes are to be reviewed after a disabled man was wrongly told he was not entitled to one.

Newham council has apologised and paid £400 in compensation to the Londoner who had his Freedom Pass application rejected while awaiting a hip replacement.

A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the way the town hall carried out assessments was not in line with guidance.

The ombudsman also concluded that it did not have a specific policy in place for determining applications for Freedom Passes, which allows free Tube and bus travel.

Under the Transport Act 2000, passengers over 65 are entitled to concessionary travel, as well as any passenger a council decides is disabled.

The unnamed man had his application rejected despite including supporting documents from the NHS about his disability, and the fact he was on a waiting list for a hip replacement.

He appealed against the council’s decision but was again rejected, and then  complained to the ombudsman.

Following the ombudsman’s finding, the council has agreed to produce a new policy in line with Department for Transport guidance and publish this on its website.

The council has said it will also review a further 238 rejected applications the council refused in the financial year 2022-23 in line with its new policy.

Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “We expect councils to follow guidance unless they have a valid reason not to.

“In this case, the council’s assessment process lacked transparency and officers did not consider whether it was necessary to offer the man an independent medical assessment before deciding his application.

“We also found the council did not deal with the man’s application or appeal in a timely fashion.

“I am pleased the council quickly accepted fault in this case, and has agreed to revisit the cases of other people who may have been affected by its lack of proper policy.

“By putting a new policy in place, the council should prevent this situation happening to other people.”

Newham Council said it “apologises unreservedly” for how the man’s case was managed and accepted the findings of the ombudsman’s report.

Councillor Neil Wilson, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “This case represents a failure in how we as a Council work.

“I have spoken to the departments to emphasise the importance of ensuring that we not only administer freedom passes effectively and in line with all available guidance, but also actively listen to the valid concerns raised by our residents at all times.

“As a council we will immediately improve how we manage Freedom Pass applications and this includes delivering all of the recommendations made by the ombudsman and, going beyond, to audit further historic cases to understand if other applications have been wrongly rejected.”

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