Saturday 8 October 2011

Free cinema entry for carers: the CEA card

We have had a CEA cinema card for at least 6 years. My wife gets high rate DLA and it gives me free entry as an accompanying carer at the cinema. We have a son who has severe epilepsy and dravet syndrome so I decided to get a card for him so that his carers can take him too.
When I visited the CEA Card site, I found that the scheme had changed since I last applied to a one year renewal rather than three years.
CEA cards can be obtained by people receiving DLA and allow an accompanying carer free admission
This trebles the cost for anyone with a long term illness, and there is the extra hassle of reapplying. Also if you are anything like us, turning up at the cinema with an expired card and having to pay extra. All very annoying.
The scheme is passported by having DLA. My son has a ten year award and my wife has an ‘indefinite’ award, so I emailed the CEA Card Company to ask if I could get a card for a longer period.
I received this prompt reply:
“The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA) is the trade body for UK cinemas and launched this non-mandatory scheme as one way in which a cinema can meet its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act. It recognises that some people because of their disability may need someone to help them access a cinema and provides that person with a free ticket to accompany them….. Initially the scheme provided a card with a validity period of 3 years from the date of issue. This meant that a person claiming Disability Living Allowance for a matter of weeks could still benefit from the card for the entire three year period. Reducing the lifetime of the card to 1 year from the date of issue addresses this problem…. Unfortunately we cannot provide ten year cards, all CEA Cards are valid for one year from date of issue.
Carrie Walters CEA Card Co-ordinator”
“awarded DLA for a matter of weeks”
I was surprised to find that they changed the rules in March 2009 citing unfairness of someone getting hold of a 3 year card if they had only been awarded DLA for ‘a matter of weeks’. Something I find incredibly unlikely. DLA has a long qualifying period and usually takes months to get. The only occasions I can think of where you might get it quickly and only have it for a few months is under the ‘special rules’. Under those circumstances it is fast tracked, the ‘special rules’ are for where you have a terminal illness and you are not expected to live more than six months.
I decided to try and get hold of the some stats about DLA claim length. So far I have only found them for Incapacity Benefit. IB_SDA_ESA_medical_duration_feb_2011_tables
These tables show that for Incapacity Benefit, less than 10 % of people are claiming it for under 3yrs. Obviously I need to find the figures for DLA. If they are similar it shows that thenew scheme is unfair as 90% of people are now paying three times the price they were.
CEA Card changes
I emailed the CEA Association itself via thier website and had another very quick response.
I got this reply from CEO of the Cinema Exhibitors Association
Phil Clapp wrote:
The change, which was introduced in March 2009, recognised the fact that there is now an increasingly high ‘turnover’ of people on Disability Living Allowance such that a significant number are now in receipt of DLA for a good deal less than a year. …. The CEA did consider a number of other approaches, and consulted a range of representative groups before making this decision. … we have received a small number of complaints from people who are themselves in receipt of long-term or indefinite DLA….. the truth is that were we to move away from the current standard annual approach to all applicants, then the costs around administering a more complicated scheme would inevitably rise and this would need to be passed on to those using the Card.
Phil Clapp | Chief Executive Cinema Exhibitors’ Association
I was very surprised to see that there is “increasingly high ‘turnover’ of people on Disability Living Allowance such that a significant number are now in receipt of DLA for a good deal less than a year” if anyone knows where I can check this please let me know. I am also interested in the range of represented groups that they consulted with, and why more of an objection wasn’t made at the time.
I replied sending Phil the stats I had found about Incapacity Benefit claim length and asking for if there are any plans to review the scheme. I think that even if they charged people twice as much to get a lifetime or three year award it would still be cheaper and fairer for everyone. They could reserve the one year cards for people with one year of DLA.
I am worried that the changes in the scheme are more about the “Disabled people are scroungers/fraudsters” mindset. They have made the scheme harder to qualify for on the presumption that otherwise people will abuse the system. I wondered if there was any evidence of this. We know the fraud rates for DLA are actually very low.  The DWP Information Directorate report on ‘Fraud and error in the benefits system’  for 2008-2009 estimated the level of fraud in relation to DLA at just 0.6%.
Was the change is in response to the perception of disabled people by the cinema owners? I contacted Phil Clap again with my concerns.
CEA Card – Do you even need one?

Phil Clapp responded very quickly saying that
the basic point at the time was that many of the cinemas companies would only support the CEA Card going forward if we made this change.”
Most most importantly the revelation that:
“perhaps most important being that we have always made it clear that while the Card is intended to make it easier for disabled people to avail themselves of a free ticket for someone to accompany them it is not a requirement that a person has a Card before a cinema will make such provision, or any other similar adjustment. The Card scheme was just introduced to make the process more straightforward.”
So actually we shouldn’t need a card at all. But that is not our experience. I know we have been refused a free entry before when the card had expired. Our son’s carers have never been offered free entry even though he is in a buggy at 7 and does not communicate. I understand that people with a hidden disability might prefer a having a card than explaining to a kiosk attendent.
I shall be contacting our local cinema to find out if they will allow us entry without a card. I would be interested in anyone else’s experiences and comments.
I would also urge you to email the CEA directly using the contact form here with your experiences or you are unhappy about the switch to annual renewal for the CEA card.

Thanks to Duncan from Trabasack for this great post 


Casdok said...

I get very frustrated at all this. Why should I have to provide proof of disability and then pay for a card?
I carry a disabled bus pass, disabled train pass but apparently they are not proof enough. Even though I had to provide proof to get those.

We have been allowed in without a card but have found it depends on the cinema manager at the time.

I would urge everyone to write to the CEA.

Elle said...

Have had similar problems myself: Http://
Gave up arguing & pay up. Good luck with your protest. Hope you succeed.

superfurryandy said...

On our occasional visits to Lea Valley Odeon I have had free entry as the carer for my friend who has indefinite higher rate DLA - they have never asked us for proof or a card even when she hasn't needed her wheelchair.

Irishmist said...

As an overview of attending events generally, many places will charge one admission price and allow a 'carer' to go in free on the basis that the person with the impairment wouldn't otherwise be able to attend. An exception to this was the Cambridge Folk Festival, where the offer was for two discounted tickets, which meant we had to pay more. We asked the Equality commission about this, and they said there was no obligation for anyone to offer this, and it was down to goodwill. I must admit I hadn't heard of this scheme, and I can see it would be a good idea for someone with a 'hidden' impairment. It does seem a bit more than a coincidence that this new rule is happening at the same time as the 'rebranding' of disabled people, and I would be surprised if there wasn't a connection.

Maria Blackmore said...

My experience is that without a CEA card my local cinema, the Odeon in Cardiff, won't admit my carer unless they pay full price.

This also results in ridiculous situations where you cannot book the seat next to wheelchair accessible spaces without a CEA card using the website, but cannot pay full price for such a seat using the website.

Unfortunately, the only cinema I've found in the local area where a wheelchair accessible space doesn't involve looking up at the screen with my head folded back is one screen at this Odeon, and those spaces are closed because the area you travel through to get to them is being refurbished and there are no alternative access arrangements.

Do all cinemas have such awful arrangements for wheelchair users? I've tried it once, and it was frankly horrible. Are there any sites where this is reviewed and shared?

One final note is that DLA is something you can only be eligible for once you have had your impairment(s) for more than three months. Logically speaking, I cannot think of a great many conditions which would not improve after three months, but would improve in less than 12.

Deb at aspie in the family said...

As a mum of an autistic son with mental health issues, his difficulties are largely invisible and misunderstood by many people. As a result we don't want the stress of discussing his issues with the staff at the front desk within earshot of other customers. Not only is it undignified, it creates additional anxiety for my son which can aggravate his difficulties even more and put him at risk of running off. To put him through that isn't fair and could actually deter him from going to the cinema again. This is why the CEA card is immensely beneficial to families like mine; it makes our life a little bit more easier and encourages us to access things others take for granted. It promotes inclusion and equality.

My son is in receipt of DLA but to be awarded that is a lengthy process which required a huge amount of form filling. It is not an easy process and took nearly three months before we were awarded it. As a result I find it hard to believe that there is a high turnover of DLA claimants.

One final point is that people such as my son with more hidden disabilities have a lifelong disability. His autistic spectrum disorder is for life and is not something that is going to go away within 12 months.

Unknown said...

My PA rang around all our local cinemas and they all insist that it is mandatory to have the card for the discount. My DLA so far is awarded 2 yearly but that's because my condition has been changing so much and their logic was it might get better, but infact it has only got worse. Am in the process of renewal at the moment, so hopefully once it is done then I shall apply for a card.

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

Disabled Person's Railcards at least give the option of a three-year card (slightly more expensive than two one-year cards but cheaper than three)...

tabbikatt said...

my son is autistic and has mental health problems and epilepsy he does not at first appear very disabled he has indefinate dla will always need support had the card for 3 years and the last year for 1 year there is so much paper work and form filling would be better if this did not add to it without this would not be able to go to cinema with his support just couldn't afford it and there is little enough we can when everything is doudle the price because of the support worker, some places give a dicount or free entry to places if the support worker has a valid council or official ID but this very much depends on the staff training and how busy they are.

tinkfairyx said...

I am annoyed that cinemas try to say that you now have to have this card as proof. I carry other forms of proof of disability such as bus pass, copy of parking badge and a 'headway' card. This card is not mandatory as proof as the CEA themselves admit when questioned. This fact should be made part of cinema staff training and also be stated on the form.
I would also like to say that Uckfield cinema east Sussex do not give any concession or free entry for a carer for either the disabled or blind! I find this discriminatory and greedy.
If carers could not accompany disabled people then the disabled person would not be able to visit the cinema in most cases, therefor the cinema would be losing a paying customer.
With that in mind perhaps cinemas could offer a free proof card to encourage these much needed customers

bazzza west said...

i think it more to re.educate the staff or owners of the cinarmars, that its not our want BUT OUR NEEDS for needing a pa or understanding of this situation, i been injured 15 years after a car accident and can only move me head, but dont let this stop u going, remember we have one life live it, but ask to speek nicely to the owner or top manigers there for to try and get them gto understand our NEEDS, IF U WANT TO NO MORE ABOUT ME VISIT and together we can achieve anything, change will only happen if we help it happen, B.West

Viper said...

I am a carer for my wife and apply for the card for her, whilst it is a pain to do it every year and another cost I understand the reason why. Government are tightening rules on DLA for a start. This is something that will benefit families if you are entitled. These days one cinema visit pays the fee back. For some people like us visit at least once a month it is a massive saving. As for "why do we have to pay in the first place" there are admin costs for running this scheme so to pay a small fee is expected.

Anonymous said...

All rediculus. Gov should think about scam again saying costs more to have a 3 card rather than a year. How did the CEA get to that answer....very annoyed

Anonymous said...

I have Chrons Disease. Its a very hidden disability as it affects you from the inside. Outside I can look pretty much normal. I am embarrased with it and I can't go anywhere on my own. I really like going cinema. I usually go with my brother. I receive high rate DLA, if I apply for this card, will I need to give any infomation about my disability to anyone at all in the cinema? Has anyone been questioned before when they went? I really do need help, but I would rather avoid such situations where I feel i have to explain myself. I hate the fact that because my disability is not obvious I feel like I get looked upon and judged by others, especially when using disabled toilets, the ammount of hasstle ive received with those ! Thanks for any info anyone has!

jacinta said...

I have now joined the ranks of DLA and am very very grateful that I shall have my partner into the cinema for nothing. That's only half each. I can't believe that people are wingeing about £5.50 for the card. You should be grateful you live in Britain and are so well looked after. New car, no tax, no insurance, no repairs etc. etc. Think how much that is worth a week to the poor people who have to pay full price all the time.

caroline said...

I found out only a few months ago about the CEA card, I have a severely physically disabled son in receipt of DLA. It makes such a difference as we use the cinema a lot so make a massive saving of £9.60 a time, so saves around £500 per year. I am very happy with that, the cost of the card represents 1% of this. I don't know why you are all moaning about it!

Anonymous said...


Theres a new scheme being developed we came across at an event in Nottingham the other day - this is more about the rights a person has under the equality act and it doesnt rely on dla for evidence as much as the cea card

we were told its not widely 'accepted' yet but because its about reasonable adjustments it doesnt necessarily need to be a formal scheme for all places. It is accepted at a really nice independant cinema near us but the theatre nearby accept it too. when this card grows it'll be great

Sheogorath said...

@ jacinta: The rest of Europe looks after their disabled citizens far better than the UK does, you ignorant bint.

Anonymous said...

Don't be so rude......... Perhaps Jacinta meant the rest of the world. As you may well know the only income some people with disabilities get is to either beg or join a freak show. I for one am grateful for the card

Anonymous said...

We carnt get one now for my daughter because of her age but last year she could have one but this year she can't because they state that she could go into the cinema unaccompanied.which i find utterly stupid my daughter is only 4 and enjoys the cinema and no career in their right mind would leave a 4 year old in a cinema we now have to pay no disabled prices.i also dont buy the excuse because no career would do that if they can go in for free anway.

Be the one said...

One final note is that DLA is something you can only be eligible for once you have had your impairment(s) for more than three months. Logically speaking, I cannot think of a great many conditions which would not improve after three months, but would improve in less than 12.

24 hour care at home

Gilly77 said...

My recent attempt to renew my CEA card has somewhat frustrated me. Why should l disclose personal info to a non Government company when previously a copy of my Blue Badge was acceptable -after all it has to be endorsed by a medically qualified health professional? Bureaucracy gone mad

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