Whoever forms the new Government will need to think about our ageing population and what that means for public services.
Public services must reflect the needs of the population and demographic change means that more people are experiencing sight loss and other disabilities. The next Government will need to adapt public services to make sure that they are fit for purpose and serve the people who rely on them most.
Public transport is a good example; it is vital to the independence of people who don’t drive, which includes many disabled people, older people and young people. However, many buses remain inaccessible to these groups, lacking audio-visual next stop and final destination announcements so people know where they are and where to get off so they can travel in safety and confidence.
But it goes further than just public transport, we need a joined-up approach from Government so that disabled and older people are supported through their entire journeys. In a survey, cars parked on pavements were reported to Guide Dogs as a problem by 91 per cent of respondents with sight loss and 90 per cent of fully sighted respondents. Public transport only works if people are able to walk down the street to a station or bus stop. In reforming public services, the new Government must make sure these services can be accessed in the first place, in this case by keeping pavements clear for pedestrians.
As well as adjusting for demographic change, any forward thinking Government will want to invest in the nation’s children. Children and young people with sight loss are not currently getting the support they need, with some people waiting until adulthood before receiving necessary mobility and life skills training. We hope a new Government will make this a priority as the greater independence we can give our young people now, the less they will become dependent upon public services as they get older.