I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. There are currently approximately 1,012,000 customers with direct eligibility. The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2021 is €95 million. It is important to note that, in general, access to free travel passes for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of a certain primary social protection payment, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension, carer’s allowance, blind pension and partial capacity benefit. Importantly, as many illnesses or physical conditions have an impact across a spectrum, from mild to severe, entitlement to these schemes is not provided on the basis of a simple diagnosis, but on the basis of the impact of that diagnosis on the individual concerned. In this way, resources can be targeted to people with most need. Therefore, while a diagnosis of a particular medical condition will be required to establish if a person may be eligible for certain social welfare schemes, evidence of impact is also required before entitlement to the scheme, or the related free travel scheme, is established. The sole exception to this general approach is in respect of people who are blind. My Department may award a travel supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, where the circumstances of the particular 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. I hope this brings some clarity for the Deputy.