Epilepsy Ireland recently met again with the Minister for Social Protection and her officials regarding our proposals to improve access to the Free Travel scheme for people with epilepsy.
At the meeting, we once again highlighted how this issue continues to impact on people with epilepsy and how we believe our proposals can help address this longstanding issue. The Minister and her officials acknowledged the delay in finalising the long-awaited report which is being prepared in response to our proposals – but noted that the report will be ready shortly.
While the meeting did not give a commitment either way regarding our proposals, we do believe the Minister is very clear on the impact that this issue can have on people with epilepsy and is sympathetic to what we are trying to address through our proposals. However, concerns were also raised at the meeting that enabling access to the scheme for people restricted from driving due to medical reasons could cause the scheme to grow significantly along with further cost-implications, which must be considered.
We re-iterated our point that establishing a route for eligibility for Free Travel could be individually assessed and in our view, would not differ from any other existing Departmental scheme. Deciding Officers operating to consistent and objective criteria and with reference to the information provided as part of the application would be a fair and equitable decision-making process, with normal appeals processes in place should an applicant wish to have their eligibility reassessed.
We will continue to provide further updates on this ongoing campaign on our website and social media channels.
In related news, we were pleased to see our Free Travel scheme proposals included within the Sinn Féin Alternate budget for 2024. This commitment helps draw attention to this issue, as well as adding further pressure on Government to act on this longstanding issue.
If you would like to learn more about our Free Travel campaign, read our proposals and find out how you can raise the matter with your local representatives, visit the ‘Advocacy’ section of our website.