Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (759)

Bríd Smith


759. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of extending the free travel scheme to persons that are visually impaired or blind and are unable to obtain a driver licence (details supplied). [29277/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme.  These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.  There are currently approx. 948,000 customers with direct eligibility.  Following recent announcements in Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.

I am advised that my Department cannot providing an accurate projection of the cost of extending the free travel scheme to those unable to drive a vehicle on medical grounds or because they do not meet regulations set out by the Road Safety Authority. The extra cost to the free travel scheme is determined by the usage of the extra passes provided and not by the number of newly qualified people.

The objective of the free travel scheme is to assist older people and people with disabilities in remaining active within their community. Extending the eligibility of the free travel scheme to include all people who are deemed unsuitable to drive by the national licensing authority, regardless of whether they receive a payment from my department, would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of  Employment Affairs and Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant.  The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the client’s own resources and are deemed to be necessary.  Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.