Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Questions (767)

Patricia Ryan


767. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will introduce automatic access to free travel for persons with epilepsy who are prohibited from driving due to their epilepsy diagnoses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15561/20]

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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. 976,000 customers with direct eligibility. The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2020 is €95 million.

Persons resident in Ireland who are over 66 and persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments are eligible for the scheme. The social welfare payments that allow persons aged under 66 to a free travel pass include disability allowance, invalidity pension, carer’s allowance and partial capacity benefit. Disability allowance and invalidity pension are both long term illness payments, and so people in receipt of those payments will already have eligibility.

Any possible extension to the eligibility criteria for free travel, including to those who are not allowed to drive due to their epilepsy diagnosis, would have significant cost implications for the free travel scheme and would also require additional administrative processes to be put in place in order to adjudicate eligibility. Any decision to do so could only be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.

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.

Question No. 768 answered with Question No. 742.