Bus contract that helps Falkirk OAPs still in the balance

Dial A Journey is under threat of a funding cut from Falkirk Council

Dial A Journey is under threat of a funding cut from Falkirk Council

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Plans to cancel a contract with a charity that transports the elderly and disabled to and from the shops have been put on hold.

Falkirk Council had proposed to save £141,000 this year by not renewing its deal with Dial A Journey to continue its door-to-door service.

Instead, it intended to provide more funds to promote its taxicard scheme which offers discounts to customers.

But ahead of its budget meeting last Wednesday, the business operated by the Order of Malta was given the chance to make its case for funding to be maintained – and the council agreed to more talks.

Chairman Herbert Coutts claimed: “We are a humanitarian organisation operating world-wide and we are in Central Scotland because a special group of people, many in wheelchairs, deserve the opportunity to get out and about. These proposed funding cuts cannot be bridged by us.”

Chief executive Duncan Hearsum said a “vital service” that has been available to Falkirk district since the early 1990s is at risk.

He told The Falkirk Herald: “This development has alarmed many service users. They have told us that in addition to often not meeting their needs, using a taxi even with the taxicard subsidy, is simply not affordable and would leave them stranded in their homes with little or no prospect of interacting with others.

“We recognise Falkirk Council is facing hard choices to balance its budget, but this proposal has been based on cost and not the benefits the service provides users. It’s apparent the alternative taxicard scheme is not affordable and would be useless for them.

“Dial A Journey recognises the financial problems the council is facing, but feel it’s a case of working together to find a solution. Are things so bad there is no alternative to ending a highly prized service for the disabled?”

Councillors were sent a copy of a letter from Dial A Journey users which warned if funding is withdrawn they will become ‘prisoners’ in their homes.

Mr Hearsum said: “This is not an over dramatisation, this will be the reality for many who cannot use the alternatives for either suitability or affordability reasons.”

Development services who pay the cash consulted with users ahead of recommending the cut. It said some admitted they would get a lift from family or friends if the service was withdrawn.