Sep 222018
 


Download Final September 2018 report:

Interim Reports:

Data Tables:

My research examines the efficacy of the “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users, commenced in April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more, but only if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.

The Department of Transport’s guidance states:

Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.

It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017. So I conducted comprehensive research demonstrating that in April 2018, less than half of taxi licensing authorities have implemented this legislation. There have been only three successful prosecutions of drivers for discriminating against wheelchair users.

Apr 272018
 

Pie chart: Taxi licensing authorities S167 list by April 2018 - No: 49% Yes: 51%

Download report

Pie chart: S167 grade of authorities, November 2017

A “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users was commenced on 6th April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more. But the new law only takes effect if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.

Accessible taxis are an essential part of an inclusive society; especially given the extensive barriers disabled people face with other forms of transport.

The Department of Transport’s guidance states:

Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.

It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017.

I decided to find out what local authorities are planning to do in response to this. I submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 366 taxi licensing councils, and Transport for London (who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs) in April 2017 and in October 2017.

My report and data can be downloaded in full at the top of this page. It gives depressing results.

Boundary data:
Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2016
Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2016

Map of my data by Jeff Harvey of Transport for All shows which authorities have a S167 list (green), plan to produce one (yellow) or have no current plan to do so (red).

Only 51% of British taxi licensing authorities either had a list or have a plan to create one this financial year. It’s particularly bad in Scotland where only 28% are taking it up.

26% of authorities have actively decided not to work towards such a list at the moment.

In areas that don’t create a list, wheelchair users can continue to be overcharged. Even if they report it, the driver won’t face the legal penalty. Wheelchair users will continue to be disempowered.

Even where authorities have created a list, the law is not enforced. There are 30,298 wheelchair accessible hackney carriages licensed by the 119 authorities that have implemented S167 of the Act. Yet no driver has faced enforcement action under the legislation, one year after it was commenced.

It is disappointing that many councils are undermining the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation, by their failure to undertake the required office work. Their inaction means that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.

In much of the UK, councils have no clear plan to implement the anti-discrimination law.


All is not lost.

Pressure and publicity from disabled people and their allies has already made some authorities decide to implement the law. For example, of the seven dissident councils contacted by the Disability News Service following my initial research results, five councils (Oldham, Epping Forest, Stratford-on-Avon, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney councils) changed their policy.

If your council has yet to commit to implementing this anti-discrimination legislation, (you can check in my data tables above) contacting them may well cause them to change their tune. Your contact point would be the councillors for your area on the District or Unitary council, or your London Assembly member. You can use WriteToThem to identify and contact the relevant ones, by putting your postcode in this box:


writetothem.com


Please use your own words, but you may wish to include some of the following points:

  • Taxis are essential for disabled people’s quality of life, especially given the barriers disabled people experience with other forms of transport.
  • Creating a list is a relatively minor bureaucratic procedure that sends a clear message that wheelchair users have the right to travel by taxi without discrimination.
  • The Government’s Statutory Guidance strongly recommends councils produce a list, because “without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.
  • The licensing body should create a list even if all taxis licensed by them are wheelchair accessible. Simply stating “all the taxis we license are wheelchair accessible” doesn’t have the desired effect of putting taxi drivers under a legal duty to take wheelchair users and not to charge extra for doing so.
  • It is important to create a list even if there are very few accessible taxis. It is perhaps even more important that drivers of such taxis don’t discriminate against wheelchair users.

Fleur Perry has written a template letter which may be useful to inspire you in your message.

Additionally, you may choose to tweet your local council. Muscular Dystrophy UK suggest “Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people. Will you support the equality act and make your taxis accessible? #section167fail”

Sep 012017
 

Cambridge Council’s August taxi licensing newsletter (pdf) has this correction.

In the March 2017 edition of the Taxi newsletter we published an article entitled ’Important Changes to Equality Law’. The article concerned the recent changes to equality law and the duties imposed on drivers of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Following publication of the newsletter it came to light we made an error in this article, which we would now like to rectify.
For clarification, the requirements for drivers of wheelchair accessible taxi and private hire vehicles are a policy requirement and not a legal requirement: (their emphasis)

  • Transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair
  • Provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance
  • Charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users

This is very different from their March newsletter:

"Transport accessibility" section in Cambridge council's March 2017 newsletter

Excerpt from March 2017 newsletter

From the 6th April 2017 …In a change to the law, drivers found to be discriminating against wheelchair users face fines of up to £1,000 as part of provisions being enacted from the Equality Act.

 

The same “error” is still present in Cambridge Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, and in their Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Taxi Handbook.

15.7 The Equality Act 2010 places certain duties on licensed drivers to provide assistance to people in wheelchairs and to carry them safely. There are similar requirements on drivers in relation to the treatment of passengers with an assistance dog. Neither drivers nor operators of licensed vehicles can make any extra charge or refuse to carry such passengers.

Legislative provisions and legal requirements

Drivers of wheelchair accessible vehicles must:

  • Carry a passenger seated in a wheelchair
  • Charge wheelchair users the same fare as non-wheelchair users; the meter, where used, must only be started when the journey begins

Despire correcting their newsletter, the Council has not corrected their Policy or Handbook.

Why have the Council not implemented the new taxi wheelchair law?

The Council would have to create a list of the wheelchair accessible taxis licensed by them. The drivers of said taxis would then be subject to this law. But the Council has chosen not to produce the list. (For more info, see my blog on the subject.)

The strong implication is that the Council told all taxi drivers they would be subject to this law, but changed its mind when it realised it would have to do some minor office work.

Taxi drivers in their area are not subject to a criminal law obligation against discriminating against wheelchair users (as intended by Parliament) all because the Council refuses to do some office work.

What message does that give to disabled people?

%d bloggers like this: