Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“I am extremely disappointed that the Welsh Government has confirmed its decision to increase the qualifying age for a concessionary bus pass from 60 to state pension age, which will have a significant impact on hundreds of thousands of older people throughout Wales.
“The concessionary bus pass provides invaluable support to older people of all ages, supporting their physical and mental health, as well as promoting their independence, supporting them in caring responsibilities and enabling them to stay in employment or access opportunities for learning and training.
“In my response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on this matter, and subsequent communications with the Minister for Economy and Transport, I have made clear that I oppose this change and that I have serious concerns about the Welsh Government’s impact assessment that underpins this decision, which makes a number of assumptions about older people and their needs, downplays the impact upon individuals and barely considers the potential costs that are likely to fall on other public services as a result of these proposals.
“The reaction to the Welsh Government’s announcement also demonstrates this policy is not popular with older people or the wider public and I have heard from older people across Wales that they do not agree with the Welsh Government’s proposals.
“The relatively small financial savings these proposals purport to offer will be far outweighed by the impact upon older people’s health, well-being and independence, and the resulting costs to health, social care and other services for providing services and support that otherwise would not have been needed. Furthermore, the personal cost to individuals in terms of their quality of life is unacceptably high.
“I am also concerned about the impact that the proposed change could have on the Welsh Government’s forthcoming Strategy for an Ageing Society, particularly whether it can properly address the needs of older people whilst the Welsh Government removes this entitlement from hundreds of thousands of older people.
“Similarly, these proposals, which will force some older people to make journeys by car rather than bus, fly in the face of the Welsh Government’s recent declaration of a Climate Emergency, and significantly undermines recent commitments to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
“Given the clear benefits that the current Concessionary Bus Pass System brings to older people in Wales, and the significant costs and impact that the proposals will have, I strongly urge the Minister to reconsider this decision.”