The London Freedom Pass is something I value enormously. Being able to travel for free on London transport is for many older people a life line. It enables older people to get out and about and keep active. I love it, appreciate it and use it to hop on and off buses and travel all over London. Renewal should be easy especially if nothing has changed and Westminster provide you with a reference number. If only!
Day 1: The instructions were ‘Check all your details are correct.’ I noticed they had missed out the number of my apartment. That had to be corrected if the new pass was to be delivered. So, I inserted 602 and pressed ‘go’.
A new Application Page flashed up ‘Since you have moved address you will be required to provide identification (list attached, including passport, driving licence options) and proof of your current address.’
I’d not moved but I might as well comply, so I found my passport, driving licence and the current Council Tax demand from Westminster. I took photos, managed to upload them onto my computer and attach them to the form. (You have to be quite techno savvy to do all of this). I pressed ‘send’ and congratulated myself on a job well done.
I was then asked for feedback on the service!
I filled this in saying it was all unnecessary as I hadn’t moved house and I was simply inserting the number they had omitted from my old application.
Day 4. I received an email ‘Your application for a freedom pass is declined as you have not sent proof of where you live.’
Day 5: I went online and searched through their information. Finally, I found a number to ring. After a long time it was answered by a a very helpful man in Scotland. He was in Arbroath (where they apparently process Freedom Passes). Those of you who read my blogs know I spend a lot of my time there but I decided to keep it simple and resisted saying I’d drop into their office next week! He could see their omission of my apartment number. Agreed I hadn’t moved address. HOWEVER, since I entered digits into the system my application was in its clutches and he could not help me in any way whatsoever!
I had no choice, I had to provide more evidence of where I live. No, the Council Tax Demand notice wasn’t valid. I rang off and went to bed
Day 6: I found a bank statement and began the process again. I pressed ‘Send ‘ and it disappeared into the ether.
Day 7: No communication so I emailed asking ‘Did you receive my updated information? I trust it’s all ok?’
Day 8: A reply arrived saying ‘Sorry bank statements (with full addresses) are not acceptable, neither are mobile phone bills’. There was also a list of other ‘non acceptable’ documents that all show I live here – including the Council Tax demand. I didn’t have utility bills to hand. We live in a paperless society and they are all on line. The email added ‘sorry for any delay as we are currently very busy with applications. ‘ Not surprising since my simple renewal, with the aid of Westminster Council’s policy of ‘THE COMPUTER SAYS NO’, had taken eight days, four emails, five photographs and one phone call AND I still hadn’t got the Freedom Pass!
Finally, after searching through more paper work I found a State Pension communication. Additional photos, uploading and yet another email with attachment went off to Scotland and I held my breath.
After eight days of continual rejection I realised that the Westminster IT system, was designed by a nerd aged ten and a half and I was slowly losing the will to live.
It seems that Freedom comes at a cost – to one’s sanity!
For those of you holding your breath too – the Freedom Pass finally arrived. ‘Unrestricted Movement’ is allowed once again and I am delighted to inform you can Follow Grandma on the London scene again.