Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

106 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the cost of extending free travel, ESB and TV licence to all widows whose husbands had such allowances when alive; and if he will extend such facilities to widows or at least to those with limited means. [8907/96]

Free travel is available to all persons in the State aged 66 years or over and also to certain disabled people under the age of 66. The other free schemes are available to people, usually aged 66 or over, who are in receipt of a welfare-type payment and who are either living alone or who otherwise satisfy the living alone condition. In addition, widows between the age of 60 and 65 whose late husbands had entitlement to the free schemes retain that entitlement notwithstanding their age.

The annual cost of extending the schemes of free travel, free electricity allowance and free television licence to all widows under 60 years of age, irrespective of their means, is estimated to be of the order of £4.5 million. Significant additional expenditure of this kind could be considered only in the context of demands for improvements in other areas of social welfare, including the level of payments to widows and the resources available.