The #DontZapTheZip campaign is calling on the government to keep London transport free for under 18s. Olivia Faria, a Year 13 student from Croydon, and Joshua Brown-Smith, chair of young advisors at Lewisham Council, are campaign leaders.
The zip card is a symbol of freedom for every young Londoner. We need it to travel to school. We need it to visit family and friends. We need it to explore London. Without free travel, so many children from disadvantaged families will have their childhood ruined. In 2019, 800,000 London children were living in poverty. That number is way too high. The government’s abolition of free travel will disproportionately affect these children. Young people will be excluded from so many opportunities because they cannot afford to travel. Don’t let this decision hurt young people; it is not their fault.
Why did I first get involved with this campaign? My main goal was to inform people because I know that many have no idea about the zip card being scrapped. When I first heard the news from a friend, I was convinced it was a joke or some fake news. After researching, I found out that the end of the zip card was indeed a reality. I would never wish that any child from any background be prevented from being able to travel, especially as public transport is a necessity for so many children to travel to school. I decided to take action and create a petition. I have been able to raise so much awareness, and the amount of support has been amazing. I have been in contact with so many other great young people who are demanding changes with this campaign and other social justice issues. It is really inspiring.
Now we are just waiting for a response from the government. I have full faith that we will be making a positive change. However, this campaign does not stop here! I urge everyone to get in contact with their MP to see what they are doing about this issue. Get in contact with young mayors and other activists to spread the message about this campaign. Write letters to the prime minister or transport secretary. Call up anyone you can. Let us all work together because young people are not only the future, we are the now!
With the suspension of the under 18s’ free zip cards there will be many consequences for parents and young people. The financial hardship that parents will undergo with this suspension will be petrifying because many parents have been furloughed and are already facing great hardship. Young people will miss important parts of the school day because they are trying to find money for their bus fare or pleading with the bus driver to let them on the bus. The government’s decision is totally wrong and they need to think of young people.
The government and Transport for London have announced that there will be more buses on the streets for young people to get to school, but we are also encouraged to walk, cycle or scoot to school. But some young people can’t walk to school because they live far away, and some young people don’t own scooters or bikes. The government hasn’t thought of the massive impacts this change will have on parents and young people across the capital:
- Children and young people from lower‐income families will have less money to pay for other necessities because they will now have to pay for travel. For families with several young people in the home, that will be an additional financial burden.
- In light of COVID‐19, many of us have already missed a significant part of our learning, and the suspension of zip cards will add to the stress of exams and the pressure of school life. Some young people will be late or miss school if they can’t use the bus.
- Children and young people along with bus drivers could find themselves in difficult situations because there will be times when young people do not always have the money to pay.
If universal free travel for under 18s is removed in London, 70 per cent of children who currently take the bus to school may not be entitled to free travel if that becomes means-tested. We understand that a final decision about what will happen is expected soon. By then, most students will have missed six months of school, and we simply cannot afford any further barriers to our education.
Additionally, local authorities in London remain in the dark over who will meet the financial costs of free school travel for those who are eligible. Lewisham Council estimates that it will cost £1.6 million a year to meet the transport costs for the 3,000 children they have identified as potentially being eligible for free school travel. Councils have been at the forefront of the response to COVID‐19, and they now require certainty over who will meet these costs in order to set budgets and plan vital services.