Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion calling for the immediate suspension of a review of the free travel pass. The review by the Department of Social Protection is understood to be focusing on a number of changes to the travel pass, which currently provides free travel to people over the age of 65.
The party’s spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea is warning that any move to tamper with or change the conditions of the travel pass must be avoided. “The free travel pass is an essential support for older people. It provides them with access to bus, rail and LUAS services to allow them go about their everyday business and live independently.
“Research carried out by Age Action reveals the majority of older people use their pass at least once a week, with almost a third using it every day. The study found that over 70% of travel pass holders use it to get to medical appointments, to visit family and friends and to do their shopping. Without it many fear they would become more isolated from their community and network of friends and family. Fianna Fáil introduced the travel pass in the late 1960s and wants to ensure that it is fully maintained.
“Older people have already suffered a raft of cuts under this Government. Over the past three years Minister Burton has abolished the telephone allowance, slashed the Household Benefits Package and cut the fuel allowance by 6 weeks. Any changes to the free travel pass cannot be tolerated.
“Tonight’s motion reflects the importance of the free travel pass in older people’s lives. They cannot be expected to endure further cuts. It’s understood the review is looking at a number of options, but given the recent medical card fiasco, it has become evident that the Government uses these reviews as a means of restricting entitlements. We cannot allow older people to be subjected to stress and anxiety that was witnessed during the medical card review. I’m calling on TDs from both sides of the Chamber to support this motion and to ensure that our older people are protected from any further cuts”.