Epilepsy Action NI launches SmartPass travel campaign

Published: March 12 2024
Last updated: March 12 2024

The government-run SmartPass scheme offers half-fare travel for people who have conditions such as epilepsy

The SmartPass scheme offers half-fare travel

Epilepsy Action NI is launching a campaign to improve access to discounted public travel in Northern Ireland.

The government-run SmartPass scheme offers half-fare travel for individuals who qualify under specific criteria, including those who have been refused or had a driving licence revoked due to medical reasons such as epilepsy.

However, under the current criteria, people with epilepsy must have had their driving licence refused or revoked for at least 12 months, or been refused a provisional licence.

The charity is asking people with epilepsy who have experience getting or being refused a SmartPass to complete a survey.

The survey will support a campaign calling on the Department for Infrastructure and Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) to remove barriers to access.

Epilepsy Action policy and campaigns officer Jack Morgan said requiring people with epilepsy to apply just to be rejected was complicated and unnecessarily bureaucratic.

He said: “People with epilepsy have told us that getting refused is a long and complicated process. People with epilepsy often face additional financial challenges associated with their condition, and challenges accessing the SmartPass scheme make it more difficult to access education, employment and healthcare.”

Richard Leeman applied for a licence in June 2022, following a routine appointment with his neurologist. Richard expected the application to be refused, in order to access the SmartPass scheme.

Richard said: “It seemed like an unnecessary bit of bureaucracy but this is what the DVA said I had to do.”

He completed an application form and had medical forms completed by his GP.  He also attached a copy of the neurologists’ letter which said clearly that he should not drive.

After a significant amount of time chasing the DVA, Richard received his licence in December 2022.

He said: “I was very surprised to receive it, as my neurologist had been very clear that I should not be driving.”  Thankfully, when Richard received the licence, he had been seizure free for over a year. Richard checked with both the DVA and epilepsy nurses who confirmed he was allowed to drive.

Unfortunately, the DVA have now suspended his licence and he is once again having to communicate with the DVA to resolve.

Jack said: “Too many people with epilepsy, like Richard, are experiencing difficulties accessing discounted travel in Northern Ireland.

“Epilepsy Action NI is calling for the Department for Infrastructure and MLAs to re-evaluate this policy and implement changes that reflect a more compassionate and practical approach towards people with epilepsy. Rather than imposing unnecessary barriers, the focus should be on providing support that enables them to fully participate in society through the SmartPass scheme.

We are requesting a meeting with the department in order to voice these challenges and to call for change.”

If you would like to be involved, or would like to share your experience, complete the survey here: mcrbkba1yzj.typeform.com/to/Y78mpZZF