Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

School Transport Issues: Engagement with Minister for Education

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach very much for the opportunity. I welcome the Minister and her officials, and I thank her officials for their engagement and correspondence in the past number of weeks. I am sure it has been a stressful period. Like many other Oireachtas Members, my constituency office has been inundated with calls, anger and frustration around the lack of engagement from the online portal, with it being down, and with constituents looking for answers and no one being at the other end of the phone. Certainly, the public deserve a great deal better in that regard. It is up to us as public representatives to hold people to account in this area.

School transport provision is specifically designed around eligible pupils. Those outside the eligibility criteria - and I welcome the cost-of-living measures in providing free transport and the waiver - have certainly been forgotten in this conversation. The message being put out is that it is not a real problem but it absolutely is. We need to recognise the families who bought tickets in previous years. The reality now is that for some families, their children attend their second school. However, for instance, as has been mentioned previously, Straide and Ballyvary, outside Castlebar, are not their third, fourth or fifth closest school; they are their second. They live within the distance limits, have paid for and held tickets previously and have not received them this year.

I will certainly give one instance, as explained to me by one constituent, of the overwhelming effect the policy change has caused her family, where additional childcare is now required in the morning to take her second-level children to school costing €100 a week, which will cost more than €4,000 per annum. The additional fuel costs are estimated at an additional €70 per week. While I welcome the cost-of-living measures, there is a certain consequence for people who are non-eligible and for that type of family.

Does the Minister have an indication as to how many concessionary ticket holders were still without a ticket which has been paid for?