Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Social Welfare Benefits
Question 183: To ask the Minister for Social Protection If he will review his decision to freeze the payment to private sector operators until 2014 in respect of the free travel scheme taking into account that there is a large increase in free travel usage of this service since the last survey carried out in 2008 and the fact that these private operators are not subsidised in contrast to Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail who have and will continue to have revenue and capital support from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4549/11]
The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by over 90 private operators in various parts of the country at an annual cost to the exchequer of some â¬74 million in 2010.
As outlined in The National Recovery Plan 2011 â 2014, funding for the free travel scheme is now frozen at 2010 levels of expenditure for the duration of the plan. In implementing this measure, my priority is to ensure that the beneficiaries of the scheme, namely the elderly and disabled, are not adversely impacted in this tighter funding situation. In the circumstances, my Department is not currently in a position to consider applications for increased payments under the scheme.
Question 184: To ask the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford has been refused family income supplement when they were in receipt of this payment previously and their circumstances have not changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4554/11]
Legislation covering the FIS scheme is contained in Part 6 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.
Section 227 (a) provides that:
where that person is living with or wholly or mainly maintaining his or her spouse, that spouse, and
a child or children
This definition only provides for payment of FIS where that person is considered to be part of a family, as defined. Specifically a separated person is required either to have a qualified child residing with him/her or to be "wholly or mainly maintaining his or her spouse", i.e. the adult with whom the child normally resides, to qualify as part of the family for FIS purposes.
The person concerned applied for FIS in September 2010 and his application was refused as he was deemed not to be wholly maintaining his spouse with whom the children are resident.
The person concerned was previously in receipt of FIS from September 2008 to September 2009 and was also separated at that time. While there has been no change in the legislation concerning separated couples and FIS, prior to June 2009 the practice was to pay FIS to separated parents who were maintaining their children only. As there was no legislative basis for this practice it was discontinued.