New transport scheme must consider needs of the elderly
There is no DART, no Luas and certainly no Dublin Bus in rural Ireland. Older people living in remote areas often are no longer able to drive their cars due to failing health. They rely entirely on family and friends to do their shopping, attend hospital appointments and go to Mass. But the rural transport scheme has filled a valuable gap in many rural communities – and there are now understandable concerns that services could be under threat.
Junior Minister for Transport Alan Kelly is promising that cutting down on red tape – by reducing the number of transport groups from 35 to 18 – will produce a more efficient service. While some groups have excelled in providing transport for older people and those with disabilities, others have clocked up extremely high costs and paid themselves higher than expected salaries. And there are large parts of some counties which have no rural transport services at all.
But there is no getting away from the fact that the funding for rural transport is going to be cut by at least 6pc – and it is inevitable that some services will be withdrawn. The new coordination units will have to ensure that the good work of many rural transport groups is continued. That includes bringing young people to youth clubs, older people to day-care centres and supporting meals-on-wheels services.