A whopping 30% cut to transport services for the elderly, vulnerable and disabled, inclduing those in the Banbridge area, has been described as ‘cold and cruel.
Ian Wilson, Director of Down Armagh Rural Transport DART Partnership, has called on all those affected and their families to lobby local politicians in a bid to thwart irreparable damage to the system.
DART and other commmunity transport services like Dial-A-Lift (DAL) & the Disability Action Transport Service (DATS) are funded by the Department of Regional Development and aim to reduce social and rural isolation by providing safe, affordable and accessible transport to some of the most vulnerable.
However, austerity cuts has reduced the budget in Craigavon and Banbridge by 28%.
“The unprecedented scale and scope of these cuts will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable, and will greatly increase the potential for further social exclusion and isolation throughout Craigavon & Banbridge,” said Mr Wilson.
“In real terms, the 28% cuts to the budget available for rural and urban services equates to potentially 650 journeys per month to vulnerable clients, those with disabilities and the rurally isolated individuals, being removed from the local transport network.
“The transport services provided by DART represent the thin green line, helping to hold together the fabric of rural communities across Craigavon & Banbridge. Many of our vulnerable service users rely entirely on our transport services to access healthcare, social activities, community events and shops, as well as visiting friends and family.
“The shocking impact of these cuts is that we are now witnessing vulnerable people including older people and the disabled, losing their only independent access to specialised accessible transport and access to essential services.
“The funding cuts recently announced to community transport budgets represent a cold, cruel and disproportionate attack on the most vulnerable members of our community. I would encourage individuals and families affected by the loss of community transport services to lobby local councillors, MLAs, and MPs about how the cuts have impacted on individuals, families and communities across the area.”
The Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge said: “It is essential that the provision is maintained due to the independence it offers many older people. Safe, affordable and accessible community transport is vital.”