Guest post: All Aboard…for your DPRC

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Have MS? You are entitled to a Disabled Persons Railcard. End of discussion. If you don’t want to read how or why I know this then just apply here. Explain that you have MS, enclose proof and voila. For £54 over 3 years you and one other enjoy 30% off rail fares at all times. The background to this follows:

Being the sort of person that does not like unequal treatment nor the illogicality of officialdom I ended up, quite accidentally, prosecuting a small campaign. In the first instance to see how far I could get and then ending up with a very nice little win for all pwMS.

Until recently I was an mature student so I embraced the lifestyle of discounts and got a rather inappropriately named Young Persons Railcard (I am 50). When that expired a family member with epilepsy suggested that I apply for a Disabled Persons Railcard as I have had an MS diagnosis for 26y now. I duly looked on their site and the wording about eligibility is extremely specific and unless I received certain social care payments and benefits it seemed that I wasn’t entitled. I wrote a polite letter cc’ing in my GP and MP asking why I wasn’t entitled and the immediate reply was that I was to apply, choose any of the categories (none of which applied) and they’d post me the card forthwith. I did and they did.

This seemed odd as I knew MS is a disability named as such in legislation. It also irked me as the wording seems purposefully opaque yet when I asked there was no resistance. This is the sort of illogicality that really annoys me. They are obviously putting off people who are otherwise entitled. It isn’t a conspiracy it is just crap QUANGO behaviour. The thought that people far more in need than me were being put off, as a result, grips me so I started digging.

Long story short: The Rail Ombudsman took an interest, my MP took an interest, the MS Society took an interest and that persuaded the Rail Delivery Group (RDG – said QUANGO) to take an interest and pass this to their disability and inclusion team.

Presently they have made a very small addition to their eligibility criteria page that reads:

“If you believe you might be eligible but do not meet one of the above requirements, you may contact us to discuss your individual circumstances.”

I publicised this on the Shift.ms community forum and the response has been amazing. The messages keep popping up that a pwMS has applied and received it. No questions asked. Even better was the one member who discovered that in London they can use it to apply for a 30% discount on various TFL tariffs. I am in Oxford and haven’t chased this down. Definitely worth an ask though.

The argument I made was twofold. Part 1 is that Multiple Sclerosis is classed as a disability from the date of diagnosis in the Equality Act 2010 p. 136 ( https://bit.ly/1kg2od5 ). It is binary. If one is to call it a Disabled Persons Railcard yet deny it to people who have a disability that is listed as such in legislation it seems rather odd. I observed that they may want to change the name of the product and explain that to interested parties that they want restrict its use to people with certain needs only and a transient condition wasn’t one of them. Obviously, this would play so well in the press, it’d go down a storm I’m sure! Part 2 is that the same act when referring to services/offers provided to disabled people, states that the provider of the service is not entitled to put restrictions around what constitutes a disability (such as the eligibility criteria appear to do).

I got the reassuringly named Dominic from the RDG to commit to this in an email that has been overtly copied into my MP (Ed Vaizey Cons) and the MS Society campaigns team. I have chased him regarding the wording which I still think is a bit mealy-mouthed and accept that this now causes much deliberation in development and policy committees, cross-interest consultations and several laps around the adminisphere. QUANGO, remember.

The more people that take this up the better IMHO. Disabled is disabled.

By Dom

Dominic is 50, lives near Oxford and is married to Claire. He has a 16y old daughter, has lived in the UK since 1989 and was diagnosed with RRMS 26 years ago. He is now on his 4th DMT – Ocrelizumab – and has only just started to use a cane at times!

He has just finished a BA (Hons) History degree and an MSc – Politics with Research Methods.


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9 comments

    • The logic may stand, it doesn’t mean it is listened to. I have tried ;). It is run by councils and the administrators guard the dispensation of the passes as if they were being asked to give their own personal funds away.

      I have had a walking assessment and though it was ‘OK’ the neurophysio was completely on board with the idea that, when hot, my walking deteriorates past the cut-off rendering me eligible. My Neuro is writing a letter for me at the moment confirming the transient nature.

    • Thinking further, it is referred to, cleverly, as the Blue Badge scheme and not the Disabled Parking Badge or similar.

      I imagine – am no lawyer – that were they to call it a Disabled something or other they may open themselves up to a similar argument.

      I am relying on the medical confirmation and being a smooth talking bar steward to try and finesse one. I have sworn not to misue it – I think that is being cruel to Badge Holders that always rely on it – but am not sure that cuts much ice with the steely-eyed administrators at OCC.

  • Great work and not so easily accomplished.
    Regarding UK legislative language about Multiple Sclerosis and Disability,
    Why are people having to be stressed out about PIP assessments??
    Why do they have to “jump through hoops” Performance for the assessor?
    Why do the “parking tag police” need individual statements to qualify?
    What Criteria do they use for each individual case?
    Questions for thought…

  • Agreed. I was admitted to hospital last week and coincidentally was looking at this while I was in my ‘sick’ bed. I didn’t have all of the documentation with me to scan and make the application while I was there last week. Yesterday I scanned the docs and applied on line. 2 hours later and National Rail had made their checks and sent me the codes to activate the railcard.

    Using the app, (both IOS and Android are available), I have active railcards on my iPhone and iPad. Happy days and ready to book travel.

    Also check with your local travel provider. I’m in Greater Manchester and TfGM have a scheme so that within their boundaries, I travel fee whether by bus, rail or tram. It’s a separate card and different form but what the hell. Free is free.

    Good luck.

    David

  • Brilliant piece of work Dominic! Appreciate your tenacity and determination achieving such an excellent outcome.

    Went through for quick look at the application info and note that the wording is also somewhat obtuse for the person travelling with you, as it reads ‘where appropriate’ in regards to eligibility for the person accompanying the PwMS. Whilst personally I’m able to drive and use the trains by myself, I most typically don’t travel alone for the benefit of the support from the person coming with me – does this qualify as ‘where appropriate’

    It is horrid how these things always read as if you’re on the fiddle, trying to manipulate the system, or where it’s so restrictive it leaves the majority assuming that they are not eligible! In these circumstances a win like yours is significant.

    Perhaps you could take on toilet signage next – have complete respect for our local Morrison’s store where the standard disabled sign is accompanied by another reading ‘remember not all disability is visable’ I think it should be a legal requirement for this to be added to all toilets for public use.

    Enjoy your next trip curtesy of the rail service.

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