Tuesday, 18 June 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Free Travel Scheme
637. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full year cost of extending the free travel scheme for children in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25134/19]
The free travel scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. There are currently approx. 944,000 customers with direct eligibility. In Budget 2019 the funding for the free travel scheme was increased by €5 million to a total of €95 million.
Providing an accurate projection of the cost of extending the free travel scheme to all children in receipt of domiciliary care allowance, taking into account increases announced in Budget 2019 is very difficult as the cost is determined by the usage of the extra passes provided and not by the number of newly qualified people. The fact that many operators have reduced fares for children and that in some cases children under five years of age can travel for free would also have to be taken into account. Taking all of this into consideration the yearly cost of the measure suggested by the Deputy could be as high as €5.25 million.
Any decision to extend the free travel scheme to all children that are in receipt of a domiciliary care allowance would require additional funding for the free travel scheme and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations, and funding priorities for the Free Travel Scheme generally.
Domiciliary care allowance is a monthly payment of €309.50 to the carer of a child with a disability. The allowance may be used for the additional costs involved in caring for the child and this may include additional transport costs.
Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may award a travel supplement in any case where the circumstances of the case so warrant. The supplement is intended to assist with ongoing or recurring travel costs that cannot be met from the person's own resources and are deemed to be necessary. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the person concerned.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.