Why no free bus pass for Sunderland’s over 60s?

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For the last few months she’s been looking forward to getting her Over-60’s bus pass. Coming from a family with very little, bus fare is an expense that falls very far down the list of essentials.  

My mother is a full-time carer for her oldest daughter, an autistic 31-year-old. My sister cannot leave the house alone, and yet doesn’t qualify for the carer’s pass because she is physically capable of walking out of the house and stepping onto a bus. She has very little social contact at present due to a severe lack of funding, thanks to the Conservative Government we currently suffer.

Adding extra money for one of us to take her somewhere is an added issue, which restricts our movement. She can’t walk far, so transport is essential.

I live at home and work a zero-hour contract, which is erratic at best.

So my mother, who turns 60 in a few days, is planning all the wonderful things she can do once she gets her bus pass.

Being the cautious person she is, she asked me to check online and make sure that the Over-60’s bus pass still exists. Knowing this Government, things are being snatched away and dragged into the dark while everyone is looking the other way, and the poor, elderly and disabled are always at the front of the line.

Imagine my dismay, when I checked the Gov website for information, and found she would not be getting her pass until 2023. And my anger when learning that everyone in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, would still be getting theirs.

I don’t begrudge anyone their pass. I can’t imagine how hard it is being poor in London. Nor do I begrudge the people of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland theirs. Their devolved governments have the power to decide where funding is used. But how fair is it to penalise the rest of England?

This may sound like a small issue to a lot of people. I know there have been many debates about whether over-60s should even get a free pass. But from the inside of our little family, watching my mother deflate when I broke the news, this is a massive issue. One that spans the whole of England. And one that has been strangely absent from the news.

Another victim of a Government telling us all to live within their means, while claiming millions in expenses on top of their salaries.

Seeing the woman who gave birth to me cry for what has been taken away left me feeling helpless . The woman who raised me to help the helpless and show compassion, to have hope that things will get better, and that no matter how many times you are knocked down, you can get back up and keep fighting.

My mother’s heart broke a little that day. A little of the hope I see in her eyes dimmed. How much further do we have to go? I’d suggest getting the bus, but that isn’t really an option now.

Danielle Allen