By Cara Stones
Sheffield students with disabilities may now find it difficult to get a taxi after City Taxis announced plans to close accounts managed by third parties from next month.
Although it will not only be accounts of disabled people but rather “all accounts of personal, funded or managed clients” that could be closed, customers are concerned it will make things particularly difficult for people with disabilities as they will now be required to present receipts in order to get reimbursed. One user on sheffieldforum.co.uk said “Carrying large amounts of cash each day and managing receipts will make it very difficult for some people, for example those with autism.”
Disabled students are able to get reimbursed for their transport via DSA (disability student allowance). Until now these students could open up accounts through specific organisations and receive invoices that would make arrangement for payments much easier.
The managed account closures are set to start on March 1st.
The move by City Taxis seems to have upset some customers. One student said: “City Taxis are not putting their customers first” and another added: “their customers will more than likely just look to other taxi companies that still offer a similar service or the same types of accounts”.
City Taxis have responded by explaining their reasoning behind the closures. “Unfortunately some of our accounts (not all student accounts) that are managed by third party organisations have created several billing and payment issues which have subsequently led to a substantial amount of bad debt.
“We have attempted to work with these organisations to try and bring these accounts under control but they have explained that they are unable to accept responsibility or liability for any of the account usage which has left us with no option but to review our policies”.
When asked about the affect the closures would specifically have on students that used these managed accounts, City Taxis said they have a “long established working relationship with both universities in Sheffield” and added that they don’t intend to cause any “disruption or inconvenience” to customers.
The company has also suggested alternative ways that anyone affected by the closed accounts can use their service, which included registering a credit or debit card on their booking app: “If booked and paid via the app a receipt is emailed automatically after every journey.” This would be one way that people who pay through systems such as DSA could ensure that they get reimbursed for every journey.
The taxi company have also said that they are currently developing a better online booking system that will give customers a chance to pay and book online.