Written Answers. - Free Travel Scheme.

Tony Gregory

Question:

733 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if, in view of the special circumstances of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7, whose husband has a contributory pension and is in long-term hospital care with Alzheimers, he will extend the use of the free travel pass to this person in view of the fact that she needs the pass to travel to James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15. [19377/00]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over, to all carers in receipt of carer's

allowance and to carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance. It is also available to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. In addition, the spouse or partner of the passholder may accompany the passholder free of charge when travelling on public transport.

An application for a free travel pass was received from the person concerned in October 1998. Her claim was refused as she was under pension age and did not meet any of the requirements under the terms of the scheme.

A comprehensive policy review of my Department's free schemes, including the free travel scheme, was published last April by the Policy Institute, Trinity College.

I am considering the possibilities for further development of the scheme in the light of the review. The type of case raised by the Deputy was not specifically adverted to in the review but the review considered that extension of the scheme to spouses generally of passholders was outside the objectives of the scheme and would have major cost implications.
The issue will be borne in mind in the development of any future proposals for the scheme.