Written answers

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Department of Health

Free Travel Scheme

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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667. To ask the Minister for Health if he will contact the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to ensure the free travel pass can be accepted on LocalLink bus services in exceptional cases such as the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3180/20]

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin Bay North, Independent)
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The Deputy will be aware that the Free Travel Scheme is operated on behalf of the Department for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Department of Transport, tourism and sport has a responsibility to provide Public Transport, that is Transport open to the entire community, and transport exclusively for HSE Service users does not fall into this remit.

There are improvements in access to a range of transport supports available to persons with disabilities in the State, for example the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme, operated by the Revenue Commissioners; the Free Travel Scheme operated by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; and CLÁR funding, approved by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, to voluntary organisations providing transport for people with significant mobility issues. 

Under the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 - 2021, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has responsibility for the continued development of accessibility and availability of accessible public transport.

The Department of Health and the HSE provide specialist disability services, including Day Services and Rehabilitative Training, to people with disabilities who require such services. Transport is not considered a core Health service and as such Day Service funding does not include transport.  

In the case provided, of a service user in Cavan, the HSE have informed the department that the Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO 1) works with Local Link to provide a co-ordinated and efficient transport service, for all service users going to day services operated or funded by the HSE. The HSE pays 90% of the costs of this day service transport, with the remainder funded through passenger fares. The HSE has no remit to provide transport but recognises that service users living in rural areas would not be able to access services without transport supports. 

It is important to note that at present fares (€4) are collected on "closed" routes (i.e. not open to the general public but for HSE service users only). Service users who are using a public "open" Local Link bus route to get to their day service, can use their free bus pass. 

The €4 charge collected on these 'closed' routes contributes to overall improvements in service delivery including increased number of routes, shorter journey times and improvement in quality of vehicles used.  

The HSE service provided is:

- Safe and of the highest quality providing door to door transport for people attending HSE funded services, including assigned designated Garda vetted drivers per service so that relationships and trust are developed between passenger and driver

- fully accessible

- best value for money

- co-ordinated and managed in a professional manner by people who have expertise in transport provision

- reviewed continuously to ensure shorter passenger journey times.

This partnership with transport providers commenced in Sligo and Leitrim in 2012. At this time, day services commenced collecting transport fares within the centre. However, some centres did not collect fares and to ensure equity all passengers are now being requested to pay fares.


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