Skip to main content

Oireachtas Committee recommends extension of Free Travel scheme to people with epilepsy

Last Updated:
Empty committee room in the Dáil

The Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection have included in their pre-budget submission to the Minister for Finance, a key proposal sought by Epilepsy Ireland to improve access to the Free Travel scheme for people with epilepsy.

The Committee’s submission contains 17 key recommendations, with access to the Free Travel scheme listed as number 4. This follows a submission by Epilepsy Ireland made as part of the Committee’s pre-budget consultative process.

As part of their submission – which is available to read and download at the end of this article – the committee have stated:

The Committee recommends the extension of the Free Travel Scheme to all those, including sufferers of epilepsy, who are medically deemed unfit to drive for a year or more and therefore cannot get a driver’s licence.

We are pleased to see this longstanding issue for people with epilepsy included in the Committee’s pre-budget submission. The matter has been regularly raised with the Committee and we would like to thank all TDs and Senators on the Committee for supporting the initiative.

While this is welcomed, ultimately rectifying this issue will be a matter for Government. We still await a final report from the Department of Social Protection regarding our proposals to improve access to the Free Travel scheme. This report has been expected since the end of last year but frustratingly, has yet to be finalised or shared with Epilepsy Ireland.

Given the amount of time which has gone into the report's preparation, and the fact that several deadlines have been missed, we can only hope the delay is because the report contains positive steps forward on resolving the issue.

Earlier this month, Minister Humphreys provided an update via a question raised by Aindrias Moynihan TD:

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: To ask the Minister for 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. [33085/23]


Deputy Heather Humphreys; Minister for Social Protection: 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 all available avenues to further advance this issue. We have already written to the Minister earlier this year seeking an update – you can see our correspondence by visiting the ‘News’ section of our website.

We urge all our members and anyone affected by this issue to continue to raise this with your local TDs and Senators. With the Dáil now in recess for the summer, it is a perfect opportunity to remind elected representatives within your community of the impact of this issue and how it is affecting people with epilepsy in every constituency in Ireland.

You can find a template letter that you can use and adapt by visiting the ‘Advocacy’ section of our website.

Should further updates become available on this issue, we will share these on our website and social media channels.