CEA Card – Do you need one?

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. In the past you needed three year renewal but this has now changed to every year.

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, the chances are you’ll end up turning up at the cinema with an expired card and having to pay extra. All very annoying.

The scheme is passported by receiving 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’. I find this scenario 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 the new 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 their website and had another very quick response from their CEO:

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” so if anyone knows where I can verify this information 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 down to the “Disabled people are scroungers/fraudsters” mindset. They have made the scheme harder to qualify for on the presumption that if they didn’t, people would 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 Clapp 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.”

and providing the most revealingly the statement 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. 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 http://www.cinemauk.org.uk/contact/ with your experiences or you are unhappy about the switch to annual renewal for the CEA card.


This post appeared as a guest post on The Broken Of Britain disability campaign site. CEA card for Carers

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