• Northside East

Minister allays any Free Travel Scheme concerns

Friday, 21st April, 2017 8:00am
Minister allays any Free Travel Scheme concerns

Dublin Bay North TD Sean Haughey (FF) outside the Dail with local people to mark the 50th anniversary of the Free Travel Scheme. Minister Varadkar has allayed any concerns that changes could be made to the scheme.

Minister allays any Free Travel Scheme concerns

Dublin Bay North TD Sean Haughey (FF) outside the Dail with local people to mark the 50th anniversary of the Free Travel Scheme. Minister Varadkar has allayed any concerns that changes could be made to the scheme.

MINISTER for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is fully committed to maintaining the Free Travel Scheme and there are “no plans to make any changes”.

Charlie Haughey, when he was Minister of Finance, introduced the scheme in 1967.  Last week, Dublin Bay North TD Sean Haughey (FF) marked the 50th anniversary of his late father's introduction of the scheme, when he met people in his constituency who continue to avail of its benefits. 

However, during the meeting, Deputy Haughey sounded a note of caution in relation to the scheme’s future amid concerns of possible changes that could adversely affect its users.

“We must remain vigilant to ensure that restrictions to the scheme are not introduced or that any attempt to introduce a fee-based system is resolutely opposed,” said Deputy Haughey. 

“It is important too that the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, does his utmost to fully protect this scheme and avoids increasing the fears of those who rely on this lifeline.”
    Deputy Haughey said the scheme is a simple measure that has a profound impact for the almost one million pensioners, people with disabilities, and those in receipt of social welfare payments nationwide who benefit from it.
   “Over the course of the past five decades, the Free Travel Pass has ensured that senior citizens and people with disabilities remained able to travel around their community, and also around Ireland,” he added.

“This is an essential social protection support for many and enables those who rely on it to retain their independence and participate in their communities. In many ways, it also helps to prevent loneliness and isolation.”
    In a statement, the Department of Social Protection confirmed Minister Varadkar’s commitment to the scheme.  

“The Minister has made it clear that the Free Travel Scheme is a valuable support for older people and people with disabilities and it has a significant role in promoting social inclusion and preventing their isolation,” a spokeswoman for the Department told Northside People. 
     “Indeed the Minister is anxious that more private commercial operators would participate in the scheme particularly across rural parts of Ireland.

“Owing to the range of policy changes implemented since it was first introduced 50 years ago in 1967, the scheme is now universally available to everyone permanently living in the State aged 66 and over as well as carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance and people who are in receipt of Disability Allowance or an Invalidity Pension.” 

The spokeswoman added: “This means that over 20 per cent of the total national population can benefit from the scheme at present.”

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here

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