Southwark Council cancelled a resident’s free disability travel for six weeks, leaving her unable to fetch her prescriptions while feeling suicidal, the Local Government Ombudsman has found.
The ruling – dated September 2018 but published last week – upheld a complaint by resident ‘Ms X’ that the council had removed her freedom pass without warning.
The confusion arose after the council told the woman, who has mental and physical health issues, to renew her pass in October 2017.
She did not complete an initial online application amid receiving conflicting information from council officers about proof-of-identity forms and the pass was removed without notice at the end of January.
In its ruling the Ombudsman found: “Although Ms X delayed in submitting her application to renew her freedom pass, the Council acted with fault, it cancelled her existing pass without warning.
“There was also delay and confusion in dealing with the renewal application which caused Ms X unnecessary distress.”
The woman completed an application in February but did not have her freedom pass reinstated until April, going six weeks without the travel concession.
The council paid the resident £100 in compensation and have given her a formal written apology for the errors.
It also said it will review the process to make sure freedom pass applications are easier to complete.
In one exchange with the council in March, the resident told officials she was unable to get her prescriptions because of the lack of a pass.
“She is also running out of gas and electric,” recorded a council officer. They added: “She has mental health issues and is presently suicidal.”
Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Adult Care told the News: “I am so sorry for the distress that this has caused, we have of course issued a full apology and compensation.
“I have investigated this case and we are now reviewing the process to make sure that lessons are learned with the clear aim of making applications simpler and providing more support, to help vulnerable people access the service.”
The Ombudsman has since closed the complaint.