Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea is calling on Minister Burton to suspend her department’s review on the Free Travel Pass. An examination of the scheme, which provides free travel to people over the age of 65 is underway, with a decision due over the next few months.
Deputy O’Dea commented, “As we have learned from the medical card fiasco, this Government has been using reviews of important social services as a cover for restricting entitlement. The current process, which is underway at the Department of Social Protection is creating fear and anxiety among older people who rely on their travel pass. Any attempts to change or tamper with the travel pass should not be tolerated. It is an essential support provided to older people to help them live independently.
“Age Action has launched a campaign warning the Government not to meddle with the travel pass. Research carried out by the group has found that almost 80% of older people use their travel pass at least once a week, while 30% use it daily. Fianna Fáil fully supports this campaign to protect this vital support. The party introduced the free travel pass in the late 1960s and it has been an integral part of older people’s lives since then.
“Older people have already been hit by a range of stealth taxes by this Government, including increased prescription charges, higher carbon taxes, property tax and the introduction of water charges later this year. On top of that Minister Burton has scrapped the telephone allowance and reduced the fuel allowance during her term in office. People on the pension are on a fixed income so every one of these changes have dramatically reduced the amount of money they have left in their pockets once these bills have been paid.
“Changing the terms of the travel pass is another attack on one of the most vulnerable sections of our society. Many older people are dependent on the pass to allow them attend medical appointments, collect their pensions; and to visit family and friends. Any modification will limit their ability to undertake these everyday tasks and could leave many housebound with little social interaction. I’m calling on Ministers Burton to stop this unfair and unnecessary review.