What are we consulting about?
This consultation is about proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the Nexus Companion Card concessionary travel product. A Companion Card is used by people who may need to take a companion with them when making trips by public transport, and who meet the qualifying criteria. Companion Card holders can take a companion with them on their journey if they need to do so, free of charge.
Why are we considering changes to the eligibility criteria?
We are proposing to change the criteria following a review of the scheme, to bring it into line with the criteria for eligibility for elements of the Personal Independence Payment benefit (PIP).
Existing Companion Card holders will be unaffected by the proposed changes which will apply only to new applicants, should Nexus proceed with the changes following the outcome of the consultation process.
What changes are we proposing?
Nexus has identified that the criteria it currently uses to assess eligibility for the scheme may prevent some people who have a need for the product from being issued with a Companion Card. To address this, we are proposing to alter the scheme criteria so that the concession can be targeted more effectively at the people who will gain most benefit from it.
The rationale for the change, and the implications for new applicants, are set out in the detailed consultation document attached below. In summary, we are proposing to make it easier for people aged 16-64 to qualify for the product on the grounds of reduced mobility. This may have implications for other applicants, depending upon the benefits they receive. People in receipt of age-related benefits (65+) will not be affected by the changes proposed.
A public consultation was open from Monday 10 September to Sunday 2 December 2018.
Summary of responses
Five comments were received; two from members of the public and three from organisations.
General Comments – one respondent expressed qualified support for the principles behind the proposals, stating that it was important to consider all who need extra support when using public transport. Others stated that the proposal was a cost-cutting exercise and advocated greater flexibility, rather than the introduction of scheme-specific criteria. A response suggested that the eligibility criteria should be extended to include both those who receive the enhanced rate mobility benefit and those who receive the standard rate, ensuring that all aspects of PIP assessments are considered and that people with different disabilities have a fair chance in applying. Another response said that people who suffer from black-outs and are ineligible for a driving licence or for PIP should be able to take a companion with them free of charge.
- The eligibility criteria have been extended to include the existing criteria alongside the inclusion of those who are eligible for the enhanced rate of PIP based on eligibility for the Mobility component.
One respondent expressed concerns that they were aware of occasions where once part 1 of the PIP assessment had been completed and 12 points amassed, part 2 of the assessment – where the Mobility component is located – is not completed. This could, in theory, prevent potentially eligible applicants from succeeding in applying for a Companion Card. (It is understood that in such circumstances, recipients of PIP can challenge the basis on which their assessments have been conducted).
A respondent stated that war veterans in receipt of War Disablement Pension (WDP) with mobility and PIP without mobility would not qualify for Companion Card under the proposed criteria because the Mobility component of WDP is higher than that attached to PIP, therefore people eligible for the Mobility component under either WDP or PIP would elect to receive the former.
- The respondent’s concerns surrounding the way in which assessments for PIP may be undertaken are noted. Nexus has no jurisdiction over or involvement with the assessment process, and only sees the outcome when determining the eligibility of Companion Card applications.
- The potential impact of the proposed changes upon recipients of War Disablement Pension is acknowledged and in mitigation, it is proposed that the new eligibility criteria be revised to include recipients of the Mobility component associated with WDP.
One respondent argued that there is also a case for including other aspects of travel that could affect disabled passengers, including emotional impacts, and encourages Nexus to think more extensively around the different areas of the PIP entitlement criteria to create a fair assessment process for the scheme that doesn’t specifically focus on travel alone.
- The points made are noted, however it is considered that the proposed criteria changes represent a fair balance between making it easier for people to use public transport based upon their individual circumstances and the availability of resources to fund the scheme.