Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker MHK today informed Tynwald Members how his Department is addressing inequality issues around the granting of concessionary travel fares.
In a statement delivered at the July sitting, Minister Baker announced changes informed by a four-week consultation exercise held earlier this year, which attracted 863 responses.
From August 1, Gold card holders will be able to retain their cards beyond retirement age, rather than be issued with Go Silver cards. Applications will also be welcomed immediately from former Go Gold card holders, whose expired cards were replaced with a Go Silver card.
In addition, Minister Baker stated his Department’s commitment to modernise legislation and bring a formal Concessionary Travel Scheme to Tynwald later this year.
Minister Baker’s statement in full:
Dear Mr President, Honourable Members,
I would like to update you on the commitment I made on 15th February 2021, to review the policies applicable to the issuing of concessionary fares on public transport, and lay a new Concessionary Travel Scheme before Tynwald, as provided for by the Isle of Man Passenger Transport Act 1982 (as amended) by the Concessionary Travel Schemes Act 2016.
This commitment arose from an identified need to address an equality issue regarding the Go Gold disability travel concession, which discriminates against people with a disability, and is contrary to the requirements of the Equality Act 2017.
The current policy position is that eligibility for a Go Gold travel concession card is linked to eligibility for a Go Silver senior travel concession card. When a Go Gold card holder reaches the age of eligibility for a Go Silver card, the Gold card expires, and the card holder applies for a Go Silver card. The current age of eligibility for a Go Silver travel card is 64. This been increasing over a number of years, and will align with state pension age by 2025.
In progressing the Concessionary Travel Scheme, my Department undertook a four week consultation during the period 20th April – 18th May 2021. The consultation generated significant public interest, and received a total of 863 responses.
It is clear to me that this consultation has identified some significant issues that I will need to address with the Ministers of the various social policy Departments. That will take time, but I do not want to allow the current Go Gold card situation to continue while we resolve the wider issues.
To that end, the Department will change its concessionary fares policy from August 2021 to allow Go Gold card disability concessions to continue past retirement. Applications will be welcomed from former Go Gold travel card holders, whose expired cards were replaced with a Go Silver travel concession card. New Go Gold cards will be issued to these applicants subject to meeting the disability concessionary travel criteria.
I can also confirm to Honourable Members that a formal Concessionary Travel Scheme will be laid before Tynwald later this year, in accordance with the enabling powers in the Isle of Man Passenger Transport Act 1982 (as amended).
The formal scheme will regularise the legal position regarding concessionary fares, which is based on a 1983 Scheme that was approved by Tynwald, and amended in 1987. The Scheme required half fares to be charged for pensioners and disabled people, who were defined with reference to s27.1 of the National Assistance (IOM) Act 1951 and which contained very outdated definitions.
The phased approach I have outlined here today will ensure that the identified equality issues are addressed imminently, whilst ensuring that sufficient time is given to meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty and to completing the exercise in a fully considered manner.
In the meantime, I hope that Members can be reassured that progress is being made in identifying, and addressing this very important issue.