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. 953,000 customers with direct eligibility. Following announcements in Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.
The scheme is available to all people aged over 66 living permanently in the State. In general access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of certain primary Social Protection payments such as disability allowance, invalidity pension, carer’s allowance, blind pension and partial capacity benefit. The thalidomide payment scheme is administered by the Department of Health and is not a Social Protection payment.
The payment a person receives under the thalidomide payment scheme is not reckonable as means for the purpose of Social Protection payments. Subject to satisfying the qualifying conditions a person in receipt of the payment may apply for a Social Protection scheme which allows a person aged under 66 to receive a free travel pass.
Any decision to extend the qualifying criteria for the free travel scheme to include those who are in receipt of a thalidomide payment 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.