Scrapping free travel for under 18s: “an attack on our children”

July 23, 2020

Image by christopher Walkey from Pixabay

Olivia Opara reports on government plans to compel students to help bail out London transport

Recently, an insidious and cunning plan of the government has shocked London youths and their households alike.

Back in May, there was an announcement made by the government of “a £1.6 billion funding and financing package for Transport for London”. This was done as a result of transport services becoming financially vulnerable as the citizens of London stayed indoors in response to the outbreak of the virus, Covid-19.

According to London Assembly, “Fares income has fallen by 90% … because Londoners have done the right thing and stayed at home – so there simply isn’t enough money coming in to pay for transport services.”

The government has concluded that the “temporary” removal of free travel for under-18s within London is a feasible condition for their plan to “bail out” the transport services. There are many uncertainties to the temporary nature of this banning of free travel for London youths as the government has failed to provide a concrete timescale for how long this is to last.

This will negatively impact many thousands of young people, as their families will now be under extra financial strain. With the extra cuts to furlough payments for non-essential workers, the added cost of having to pay for travel for young people will drastically affect child poverty throughout London. (Click here to learn more about child poverty in the UK).

If students cannot afford to travel to and from school, they will not be able to attend, further disadvantaging them

Additionally, this will further impact BAME students. With attendance being extremely poor due to the closure of both schools and colleges, the scrapping of free travel for under-18s could result in even poorer attendance of BAME students, especially when schools are allowed to reopen. If students cannot afford to travel to and from school, they will not be able to attend, further disadvantaging them.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has written a letter to Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary. Mr Khan estimates that about 30% of children are “legally entitled to free travel”. As it is supposed to be a statutory obligation of cash-strapped local authorities to provide free travel for students that qualify – if the government’s plan becomes reality – many children and their households may descend into financial turmoil.

Many London Assembly Members have also expressed their opposition to this plan and their fear for the disadvantaged areas of London.

Jennette Arnold OBE, Hackney’s City Hall representative within the London Assembly, has come forward to condemn this proposal. She deems it to be “nothing short of an attack on our children”.

After the youths of London have obeyed the guidelines of staying home, having their summer taken away for them in the effort to combat the virus, for the government to then take away their free travel as a possible bail out ploy is beyond mocking.

The so-called ‘free travel’ only encompasses the use of buses. Under-18s still must pay to use the train, tube and tram services at a discount. You can read more here.

We cannot let this happen. Young people are meant to be protected by government, not used as cannon fodder when it needs to pay its debts.

Sign petitions, email your local MPs and raise awareness. Click here to help.

Young people are at risk. We need YOU!

Olivia Opara is currently a student at Woodhouse College studying English Literature and Mathematics. She always strives to learn and develop her literary style and voice. Olivia regularly posts about her passions in her blog. She experiences every challenge she comes up against as an opportunity to grow.

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