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Tuesday 17 September 2019

Explainer: The latest you need to know about the controversial Public Services Card

Range of public services requiring the Public Services Card (PSC) is growing

Public Services Card
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The Public Services Card crisis has widened as the Irish Independent revealed today that the card will now be needed for new benefits.

The range of public services requiring the Public Services Card (PSC) is growing.

Here is the latest you need to know about the PSC:

What is the card used for now?

The Public Services Card is currently used for:

  • Accessing all payments offered by the Department of Social Protection including the State pension, jobseekers' allowance and child benefit
  • Taking the driver theory test
  • First-time adult passport applications

What are the planned uses for the PSC in the future?

There are plans to use the card for:

  • Online eligibility checks for new dental and optical benefits being brought this October
  • For applicants for student grants to Student Universal Support Ireland for the 2018/2019 year
  • The Road Safety Authority will require all driving licence applicants to have a PSC from April 2018
  • All adult passport applications and renewals in this jurisdiction will require a PSC from the fourth quarter of 2018
  • The Department of Justice has committed to introducing the 'optional use' of the PSC as proof of age card from quarter three of 2018

How many people have been denied social protection payments because they refused to register for a PSC?

This appears to be unknown. The Department of Social Protection says it doesn’t collect data on the number of people who have had payments suspended for this reason.

Speaking this morning on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General did not specifically give this number in their report.

"What we're trying to do is to encourage all PSC users to apply for the card," Minister Doherty said, "to come in, we're being as flexible as possible, there are some walk-ins available, come in with your photo and give your signature and your PPS number and proof of where you live.

"You can prove just once you are who you are, then you can use that data to get more public services," she added.

Who will have access to the personal data contained on the cards and being stored by the Government?

Neither the Departments of Public Expenditure (DPER) nor Social Protection specified exactly who will have access to the data.

Both pointed to 2005 legislation that lists more than 100 organisations, including government departments, the Revenue, hospitals, An Post and the Companies Registration Office among many others.

DPER said the information is restricted to organisations that have the legal right to access it. But it said that Social Protection would have to be contacted to see which agencies have been allowed access to date. Last night, that department did not specify whether this had taken place.

Asked this morning, Minister Doherty said 50 public bodies have access to the ID set stored on the card, but this is not visible on the physical card.

Under what circumstances, if any, would a child be required to have a PSC?

Social Protection did not provide an answer to this question other than to say anyone over 16 could apply in their own right.

What forms of security – both physical and digital – are in place to protect the information?

Social Protection wouldn’t get into specifics but said it is “committed to protecting the rights and privacy of individuals”.

It said: “The State uses various layers of server, network and data centre security. These are routinely and independently tested for robustness.”

Why is a passport not enough for proof of ID?

Minister Doherty told Morning Ireland they "want to ensure and improve the services."

"I think it's fair that as times change, the system improves," she said.

"You can say who you are on a once-off basis, we'll have that ID data set and it means you can access services more efficiently.

"A passport is an exceptionally valuable document. I don't think it's unreasonable that people applying should show who they are."

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