More than 200 Newham residents are to have their rejected applications for Freedom Passes reviewed following an Ombudsman investigation.
The Ombudsman has uncovered flaws with the way the council considered applications for the concessionary travel passes, following a complaint from a disabled resident.
Despite the man including supporting documents from the NHS about his disability, and the fact he was on a waiting list for a hip replacement, London Borough of Newham rejected his application.
The man appealed, but this too was rejected, so he complained to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman found the council did not have a specific policy in place for determining Freedom Pass applications, and the way it carried out assessments was not in line with guidance.
Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“We expect councils to follow guidance unless they have a valid reason not to. In this case, the council’s assessment process lacked transparency and officers did not consider whether it was necessary to offer the man an independent medical assessment before deciding his application.
“We also found the council did not deal with the man’s application or appeal in a timely fashion.
“I am pleased the council quickly accepted fault in this case, and has agreed to revisit the cases of other people who may have been affected by its lack of proper policy. By putting a new policy in place, the council should prevent this situation happening to other people.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the man and pay him a combined £400 for the uncertainty and avoidable frustration the situation has caused the man. It will also request relevant evidence from the man and reconsider his application.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to produce a new policy in line with Department for Transport guidance and publish this on its website.
It will also review 238 rejected Freedom Pass applications it refused in the financial year 2022-23 in line with its new policy.
Article date: 07 September 2023