Tipperary TD Noel Coonan has welcomed confirmation that the Government will continue to protect the Free Travel Scheme and the free travel pass is safe.
Deputy Coonan contacted his Government colleagues following several queries to his office regarding future protection of the pass.
Deputy Coonan said: “ A petition entitled ‘Hands off the Free Travel Pass’ was handed into my office recently. There was speculation and fear that the pass could be withdrawn. However, both the Social Protection Minister and Minister for Transport have made it clear that the Free Travel pass is safe. It has been protected in recent budgets and will continue to be protected.
“In January 2012, officials from the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Transport Authority met to discuss the operation of the Free Travel Scheme. Following from this meeting, an interdepartmental working group was established to review the free travel scheme. This review is about ensuring the viability and sustainability of the Free Travel scheme into the future, not just this year or next year.
“Both Minister Burton and the Minister for Transport have made it clear that the Free Travel pass is safe, has been protected in recent budgets and will continue to be protected,” continued Deputy Coonan.
“The Free Travel Scheme was introduced in 1967 in order to provide transport services to those aged over 70 who were living alone and in receipt of a social welfare pension. Owing to the range of policy changes implemented since 1967, the scheme is now universally available to all persons permanently living in the State aged 66 and over as well as carers in receipt of Carers Allowance and certain others such as persons in receipt of Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension. The effect of this broadening is that in excess of 20% of the total national population benefits from the scheme at present,” continued Deputy Coonan.
The Free Travel scheme is valuable to people who use it and for many people, it is a life-enhancing support,” concluded Deputy Coonan.