May 24, 2023
Persons with epilepsy deserve clarity on extension of Free Travel Scheme – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has urged Minister Heather Humphreys to provide an update on her Department’s review of the extension of the Free Travel Scheme to people with epilepsy.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire was speaking during a debate in the Dáil where he raised the matter with the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“This week is national Epilepsy Week. I am raising a very important issue which matters to people with epilepsy, namely, improved access to the free travel scheme for people with epilepsy. 

“As the Minister will be aware, epilepsy is a complex individual condition. People living with it face a wide range of challenges. 

“We are awaiting a final report from the Department on proposals Epilepsy Ireland made on this issue. Why has this report not been finalised? Will the Minister give a commitment on when it will be ready?

“As the Minister will be aware, there are 40,000 people living with epilepsy in Ireland. With the right treatment regime, 70% of people diagnosed with epilepsy can become seizure free but for 30%, their condition will be more challenging due to the nature and impact of uncontrolled seizures.

“Almost all diagnoses of epilepsy in adults come with restrictions on driving. 

“This typically occurs without time to plan and prepare and can lead to major challenges and upheaval in a person’s family, social and working life while he or she is learning to cope with a neurological diagnosis. 

“Persons with epilepsy who hold a driver’s licence and experience a breakthrough seizure will lose their licence for a further 12 months until they become one-year seizure free. Many of the people with long-term uncontrolled epilepsy, who make up 30% of diagnoses, will never be able to hold a driver’s licence.

“The fundamental issue is that the State tells these people that they cannot drive, which is reasonable, and that they then get assistance with their transport. As the Minister will understand, the way to go about this is through the free travel scheme.

“The Minister stated she was hoping she would have the report shortly. ‘Shortly’ can mean many things in these Houses. Can the Minister give us a better sense of what precisely it means in this case?”

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