The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to protect free travel for the over 60s after the Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, announced that the scheme was under threat.

"Many older people across Northern Ireland rely on free transport to ensure that they can continue to engage with their community and enjoy a social life, with many depending on the scheme as the only means of getting out of the house. It enables older people to continue to play a positive role in the community in many different ways such as providing childcare, caring and volunteering, as well as to attend medical appointments and do their shopping.

"Isolation and loneliness are significant problems for older people across our society, as many do not have access to other means of transport. If the free transport scheme is revoked, thousands of people on low incomes will find themselves without any means of continuing to live as independently as they would wish.

"Another issue for older people is the rising cost of living, with most depending on pensions as their major form of income, which have not increased at the same rate as inflation. With many pensioners living in poverty, this will have a very negative impact on their quality of life."

"I urge the Minister and the Executive to commit to ensuring the continuation of this vital lifeline so that older people across Northern Ireland can have confidence and certainty that they will be able to continue to participate and play a positive role across our society."