Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Benefits
385. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that children whose carers that have been allocated a free travel pass have not themselves being allocated a free travel pass; and the estimated cost for implementing such a process. [27827/21]
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. 996,000 customers with direct eligibility. The 2021 funding allocation for the free travel scheme is €95 million.
While my Department does not provide a free travel pass to children aged under 16, for whom a person is receiving carer's allowance, my Department does provide additional support in the form of the domiciliary care allowance. The 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.
Support is also available under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA). A travel supplement may be awarded 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.
Children aged 16 or over may apply for disability allowance. Disability allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a disability and a person can continue to attend school while receiving the payment. A child in receipt of disability allowance is entitled to a free travel pass in his/her own right.
Providing an accurate projection of the cost of extending the free travel scheme to all children whose carers have been allocated a free travel pass 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 I am advised that the yearly cost of the measure suggested by the Deputy could be as high as an estimated €6.1 million.
Any decision to extend the free travel scheme to all children whose carers have been allocated a free travel pass would require additional funding for the free travel scheme and would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.