Written answers

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Pension Provisions

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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82. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason that recipients of the invalidity pension living in the North do not qualify for free travel; if it is planned to review the SmartPass on an all-island basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48604/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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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. 1,007,000 customers with direct eligibility. The estimated expenditure on free travel in 2021 is €95 million.

The objective of the free travel scheme is to ensure older people and people with disabilities remain active within their community. In general, access to a free travel pass for those aged under 66 is linked to a person being in receipt of certain primary Social Protection payments such as Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Carer’s Allowance, Blind Pension and Partial Capacity Benefit.

While a person in receipt of Invalidity Pension may satisfy the qualifying payment criteria for a free travel pass s/he must also satisfy the residency criteria. An applicant must be legally resident and living permanently in the State (i.e. on an all-year-round basis). Therefore, a person in receipt of Invalidity Pension who resides in Northern Ireland will not qualify for a free travel pass from this State. Entitlement to a travel pass in Northern Ireland is dependent on the rules there.

The all-Ireland Free Travel Scheme for seniors resident in all parts of the island was introduced in April 2007. The scheme enables seniors (over 66) resident in the Republic to travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in Northern Ireland. Likewise, seniors (over 65) in the North can travel free of charge on bus, rail, air and ferry services participating in the Free Travel scheme in this State.

Any extension to the scheme would have to be agreed with the Northern Ireland authorities and would require additional funding to be put in place.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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