Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Social Welfare Schemes
611. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address concerns that persons who are in possession of a free travel pass are not being notified that their travel pass is due to expire within three months despite assurances that they would be notified; if she will advise free travel pass users via direct mailing post to their home addresses that the expiration date is approaching in order to save them the inconvenience and cost of having to pay for travel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32767/22]
In March 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, my Department closed its offices in accordance with the prevailing public health restrictions. This meant in-person Public Services Card (PSC) appointments, including PSC renewal appointments, had to be deferred. As a result, automatic invitations to those whose PSC was due to expire were suspended, to ensure customers were not directed to attend offices which were closed at that time.
Intreo Centres and Branch Offices reopened countrywide following the lifting of public health restrictions earlier this year, and almost 147,000 PSC appointments have taken place so far this year; this includes over 23,000 PSC renewal appointments. Any person who wishes to make an appointment to renew their PSC can contact their local Intreo Centre or Branch Office.
In addition, as part of my Department’s response during the pandemic, a facility was introduced whereby a person can have the validity period of their PSC extended by three years, by calling to an office of the Department or by calling 1890 927 999.These extended cards, issued on request, use the existing photograph, and do not necessitate attendance at an in-person appointment.
My Department also introduced an online PSC renewal service in March 2021. This service is available on MyWelfare.ie and 15,000 people have renewed their PSC online so far this year.
It is important to note that holders of expired free travel PSCs have at all times retained their entitlement to free travel. For this reason, there is an interim arrangement in place with the National Transport Authority, whereby expired free travel cards are accepted for travel on public transport services. Expired PSCs can also continue to be used to collect social welfare payments in Post Offices nationwide, and to verify MyGovID accounts.
The Department is currently reviewing the issuing of PSC expiry notifications with the aim of making the notification process more efficient. Any decision as to the resumption of the issuing of expiry notifications will be taken within the context of the Department’s available resources and the ongoing requirements to comply with the prevailing HSE and WHO public health and social distancing guidelines.