Bus pass holders in Cornwall will be able to use services around the clock to help them access essential services. Cornwall Council has also agreed to provide bus passes for care leavers under the age of 25.
Under national guidelines councils are required to offer bus passes for disabled and older people which can be used between 9.30 am and 11 pm on weekdays and anytime on weekends and bank holidays. However, they can use discretionary powers to amend those restrictions.
In recent years Cornwall Council has allowed bus passes to be used on services at any time, recognising that it is required for some people in Cornwall needing to use the bus outside of the required hours, particularly to access early appointments with GPs or at hospitals.
As the council is experiencing pressures on its budget it has been reviewing discretionary services and whether they should be removed to save money. However, in this case, the council’s Cabinet agreed yesterday to continue offering the service.
In addition, the council also agreed to allow young people leaving care to also have bus passes which they can access up to the age of 25. Councillors said this would help care leavers to access training and employment as well as being able to travel around Cornwall for leisure.
Connor Donnithorne, the Cabinet member for transport, told a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday that if the council removed the discretionary hours for bus pass users it would save £150,000 to £300,000 a year but he said it was clear that having access to public transport at all times was important for users.
On the bus passes for care leavers he said it was “a real achievement for this authority” to be able to provide free travel for those young people leaving care and said it would “provide extensive benefits” for them.
Cllr Donnithorne said it would help care leavers “struggling to meet friends and struggling to access employment and training” and said around 300 young people would be able to benefit from the scheme.
He added: “It is a cost of £150,000 but I think that is a necessary and important intervention to help our care leavers in Cornwall.”
Sarah Crawley, director of Barnardo’s South West, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Cornwall Council has become one of the first local authorities in England to offer care leavers free bus passes, it will be life-changing for young people who can often feel lonely and isolated.
“Barnardo’s launched its Transport for Freedom campaign last year asking for all care leavers in England to have access to free bus travel because young people themselves told us of the huge impact it can have on their lives, being able to travel to meet up with friends and family.
“It also opens up opportunities to further their education, take up employment opportunities, and gives them the freedom to shop where they want, rather than have to rely on expensive convenience shops.”
The decision to approve both schemes was welcomed by councillors from across political groups, but some highlighted that there was a need to ensure that the bus services which are available can meet the needs of users.
Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long said: “This is reliant on a bus service that provides a reliable service. Some parts of our communities have had bus services removed completely.”
Cllr Donnithorne said that the council was working hard to ensure that changes are made to services to ensure that sufficient provision is in place across Cornwall.