Butler warns cuts to key transport service will disproportionately impact people with disabilities

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Butler warns cuts to key transport service will disproportionately impact people with disabilities

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler has warned the increasingly chaotic budgetary position facing Stormont Departments now risks a key transport service for people with disabilities being scrapped. A Department for Infrastructure initiative which provides accessibility of public transport for people with disabilities has no guarantee of funding beyond next month.

The Lagan Valley MLA was speaking after attending a meeting with the DfI Permanent Secretary, along with members of the All Party Group of Visual Impairment and the RNIB.


Robbie Butler, who Chairs the three Assembly All Party Groups on Visual Impairment, Disability and Loneliness said:


“No one in Northern Ireland should be discriminated against in accessing suitable public transport. Yet for some people, whether because of age, rural isolation or additional physical needs, accessing the routine public transport network is not always possible. That’s why the three targeted schemes from the Department for Infrastructure - the Rural Transport Service, the Disability Action Transport Scheme and Shopmobility - are all so vitally important.  


“The disability transport scheme in particular is a key lifeline as it offers a specialised transport service for people living in towns or cities who aren’t able to use public transport. I was appalled to learn that even this crucial service is at risk of ending within weeks.


“Thousands of people each week – especially among our elderly and disabled population – rely on the range of specialist DfI transport schemes. Even the hugely popular and successful Shopmobility programme that provides support to schemes in 12 towns and cities faces having its funding withheld. These schemes lend manual and powered wheelchairs and powered scooters to members of the public with limited mobility to shop and use leisure facilities. 


“It’s abhorrent that the ongoing political instability at Stormont, and the associated inability to agree multi-year Departmental budgets, is now impacting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.


“Nonetheless whether it’s access to healthcare appointments, recreational activities, or even gathering basic household necessities it’s shameful that so many people now face losing such an important service. I’m certain that had we an Executive and local Minister’s in place key services such as these would not be facing the scrap. Yet for as long as the stalemate at Stormont continues and one Party continues to block all others, the greater the impact their actions are going to have on people’s lives.


"In the meantime the willingness and availability of the DfI Permanent Secretary and her team to meet with the APG early this morning was appreciated, as was her genuine commitment to still do everything within her powers to try to secure funding and provide clarity in these challenging times.