The Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands recently invited submissions from organisations or individuals which will feed into the budgetary process of the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Epilepsy Ireland have made a submission as part of this process, re-iterating our proposals to improve access to the Free Travel scheme for people with epilepsy.
While the Committee and its members will be well aware of our proposals, given that we have corresponded with them on numerous occasions around same, we felt it important to formally put forward our proposals once again as part of this process. We hope that the Committee will include our proposals as part of any final submission that they put forward to the Department in advance of this year’s budget.
Meanwhile, regarding this campaign, we still urgently await a report from the Department regarding our proposals. The matter continues to be raised regularly in the Dáil, with the latest response by the Minister to Deputy Aindrias Moynihan this week included below:
Deputy Aindrias Moynihan - To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the report being compiled by her Department on expanding the free travel scheme for people who have been excluded from driving with epilepsy is available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24641/23]
Minister Heather Humphreys
The Free Travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. There are over one million customers with direct eligibility. The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2023 is €95 million.
It is important to note that, in general, access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is a secondary benefit 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. As many illnesses or physical conditions have an impact ranging from mild to severe, entitlement to these social welfare schemes is not provided on the basis of a diagnosis but on the basis of the impact of that diagnosis on the individual concerned and in the case of Disability and Carer's Allowance to an assessment of their means. In this way, resources can be targeted to people in most need.
I am aware of an ongoing campaign by Epilepsy Ireland. I fully recognise the issues and difficulties that can arise due to a person being diagnosed with epilepsy and who is unable to drive as a result of their condition.
I have met with representatives of Epilepsy Ireland to discuss its proposal in detail and following the meeting I asked my Department officials to examine the issues raised in relation to access to the Free Travel scheme.
As previously advised to the Deputy, I am awaiting a report from my officials on the issues raised by Epilepsy Ireland. I expect to receive the report shortly and will carefully consider its contents and any recommendations that it may contain.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.
We will continue to use every avenue we can to seek progress on this longstanding campaign. If you would like to support our campaign – or like to learn more about what we are proposing and why – visit the ‘Advocacy’ section of our website for further details.
When further information becomes available regarding this matter, we will highlight this on our website and social media channels.