Free contraception scheme extended to include people aged up to 35 in Ireland

The move comes as part of a new action plan designed to improve women's health in Ireland.

The article discusses new measures relating to the Women's Health Action Plan, including an extended age for accessing free contraception. The image shows a woman doctor and patient. The doctor is holding the patient's arm and his holding a file.
Image: S_L via Shutterstock

The government has confirmed that the cut-off for people accessing free contraception in Ireland is to be extended from 30 to 35 under phase two of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2024-2025.

The programme, which is open to women, girls, non-binary and trans people who qualify for prescription contraception, was first introduced in September 2022. It originally catered for people between the ages of 17 to 25, but in September 2023, it was extended to include people up to the age of 31.

€11 million of investment is going into backing the latest phase of the Action Plan, which will also see an increase in the capacity of Specialist Menopause Clinics and the roll-out of additional “See-and-Treat” Gynaecology Clinics. This brings the total funding for women’s health to €140 million since 2020.

As well as the upkeep and expansion of services developed during the first Action Plan, such as the extended free contraception programme, the new phase will also see a shift in healthcare services for older people.

Initiatives targeting women in midlife or older to improve bone and cardiovascular health will be part of the’ New Spotlights’ pillar.

It will also see the development of the country’s first public Assisted Human Reproduction Treatment Centre and the expansion of the National Venous Thromboembolism Programme. 

Finally, the ‘New Spotlights’ pillar will see the much-needed implementation of healthcare support for marginalised women.

The new initiatives have been identified by a dedicated Women’s Health Taskforce, which will continue to consult with ministers to develop further key areas of deficit. As well as conducting further relevant research, it will engage in a ‘Radical Listening exercise’ through a new Patient Voice Forum.


Launching the new phase, Rachel Kenna, Chief Nursing Officer and Co-Chair of the Women’s Health Taskforce, said: “The work of the Women’s Health Taskforce laid the foundations for what has been a transformative era for women’s health. By listening to women, the Taskforce identified priority areas for action which have been supported by extensive investment.”

As well as the extended free contraception programme, she highlighted that “the focus now extends to areas such as post-menopause care, proactive health, screening, gynaecological care and better access to healthcare for marginalised groups.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly highlighted the role the Taskforce had played: “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Women’s Health Taskforce as the driving force behind the revolution and now this evolution in women’s healthcare”.

He continued, “I want to pay tribute to the clinicians and healthcare workers whose dedication has turned ambitious vision into positive reality for the women who use these services every day.”

Minister Donnelly also outlined the overall impact of the Women’s Health Action Plan, saying, “In a very short space of time, our investment in women’s health has dramatically altered the landscape of women’s health services.

“Every week, I meet with people whose healthcare experience has been transformed by initiatives such as the Free Contraception Scheme, our network of services for fertility, menopause, endometriosis and our see-and-treat gynaecology clinics around the country.

“The success of these initiatives is evident in the increased demand in some areas so my focus now is on expanding capacity and improving delivery across the new HSE health regions to ensure that every woman can access timely, quality healthcare.”


The newly appointed Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Colm Burke, recognised the significance of the free contraception scheme and offering an extended age bracket, saying: “One of the key successes of the first Women’s Health Action Plan has been the removal of many financial barriers to healthcare. The Free Contraception Scheme has enabled women to take control of their reproductive health without having to consider cost.”

He continued, “The Action Plan has also introduced period poverty measures through initiatives with 30 Local Authorities, the HSE and community partners and I’m delighted that the new plan will facilitate further expansion of these services.”

You can read a full copy of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2024-2025 Phase 2: An Evolution in Women’s Health here.

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