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‘I have a bit of my independence back’ – free travel scheme extension available to those ‘medically unfit to drive’


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The new scheme, secured as part of Budget 2024, will be available from July 29 and is now open for applications.

It will be extended to people who have never been able to drive due to a disability, and to drivers who have a licence and are medically certified as not fit to drive for a period of 12 months or longer.

The scheme offers free travel on all public transport owned by the State, including bus, rail, local link, Luas and some services operated by private bus and ferry transport operators.

Lisa Whelan, who has epilepsy, said she has “no independence” in relation to driving.

“I can’t just run to the shop when I want to go to the shop, I can’t bring my children to the activities, to appointments they might have, to anything that they need,” she told the Irish Independent.

“Simple things like if you’re cooking a dinner and you need some ingredients, you can’t just run to the shop.

“I don’t drink because of my epilepsy – when I go out with my friends or with my husband, I used to always be a driver – I can’t do that anymore.

“They all are things that would have a huge cost implication as a result of that because it’s taxis or it’s organising stuff.

“Your independence is gone and it’s a huge aspect of it for me,” she said.

She added she has “fantastic support” from her husband, children, and her parents and sister who live close by.

“But it’s not the same as having your own independence and being able to drive yourself.”

She said she “welcomes” the new extension that will allow her to travel for free.

“I travel to Wexford a lot during the summertime, for me to get the bus down and bus back it’s €20 each way so that’s going to reduce.

“I do have a bit of my independence back. Its a fantastic thing to have,” she added.

There are approximately 32,000 people expected to benefit from this extension this year.

Wayne O’Reilly from Wexford has been living with epilepsy since 2016 which had the “biggest impact” on his driving, he said.

“[The extension] brings much more independence back to people that were relying on a friend or family to give them a lift somewhere.

“By not being able to drive and living in the countryside it nearly eliminates you from absolutely everything – whereas with public transport you still have the ability to go to places, to achieve what you want to achieve, without having to rely on lifts from other people,” he added.

While speaking at the launch at Busáras today, Minister Humphreys said she’s expanding the free travel scheme which will benefit more people.

“You don’t need to be on social welfare payment. Secondly, there’s no means test. Thirdly, it’s going to help working people and we’re going to extend it to anybody who is certified as medically unfit to drive for a year or more,” she added.

CEO of Epilepsy Ireland Peter Murphy said it’s “a significant development” which will “improve the quality of life” of people living with epilepsy, as there are approximately 45,000 people with epilepsy in Ireland.

“About 1/3 of those people have uncontrolled epilepsy, and one of the big challenges people face when you have uncontrolled seizures is not being able to drive, and you’re restricted from driving for at least one year since your last seizure in most cases.

“It will help people in employment and education, it will keep people socially active and independent, and it will help reduce the financial burden, often associated with being excluded from driving, and help with day-to-day tasks, getting the kids to school,” he said.

The free travel scheme is currently available to everyone who is 66 or over, and to certain people who are under 66 in receipt of qualifying payments or who meet the medical conditions for blind pension.

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