Thank you for your letter regarding the legal rights of assistance dog owners.
I share your belief that everyone deserves the right to access services freely and with dignity. That is why I am proud that there are already strict laws against the discrimination of those who rely on guide dogs, giving people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work and visit friends independently.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. As I am sure you are aware, taxi and PHV drivers convicted of illegally refusing the carriage of assistance dogs already face fines of up to £1,000 in addition to costs, and may also have their licence suspended or revoked by the respective local licensing authority. This is absolutely right, as the independence that a guide dog gives people with disabilities is an important part of their lives.
With regard to ensuring that all taxi and minicab drivers carry out disability equality training, I understand that as of March 2018, only 38% of licensing authorities required drivers to complete disability awareness and equality training. I would urge the remainder to use their existing licensing powers to ensure that all taxi and PHV drivers have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide every passenger with the assistance they require. I am pleased that Broxtowe Borough Council are currently looking to introduce disability awareness and equality training as part of a countywide project and have already been in discussion with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Furthermore, I understand that Ministers are considering the recommendations made in the report of the Chair of the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing, including those intended to improve accessibility. A Government response will be issued shortly.
I also welcome the work that the Access All Areas Campaign is undertaking to raise awareness of the rights of guide dog owners and of the confidence-damaging discrimination that many of them so often face.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.