Monday 22 January 2018

Pensioners and parents face photo ID check in new welfare plan

New public services ID card
New public services ID card

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

ALL pensioners and parents receiving child benefit face being forced to give electronic signatures and photos at welfare offices or having their payments stopped under stringent new rules.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is bringing in the new checks for everyone who is in receipt of welfare payments.

They are contained in a Social Welfare Bill to be published today. A source said the checks would become a "standard request".

It means that anyone in receipt of welfare payments – such as pensioners, parents, people on the dole and disability claimants – can be called into a social welfare office to have their photograph taken and their signature recorded electronically.

A source said it would be a "standard request that will not be indicative" of welfare fraud but would be designed to increase greater roll-out of the public services card, which includes the signature and photo.

The calls for people to provide a photo and electronic signature are likely to be made at the discretion of individual welfare staff.

The Department of Social Protection is rolling out its new ID card. It will contain an electronic photo similar to those on passports, which contain digital information as well as an actual photograph.

If people do not show up after being asked to present themselves at a welfare office – or fail to "satisfy the minister as to his or her identity", according to sources – they will be disqualified from receiving welfare payments.

These rules are already in place for new welfare applicants or applicants for a public services card or a public welfare number, but Ms Burton's legislation means that they will now apply to everyone who gets welfare payments.

A source said: "Where required, an applicant may have to attend at a designated office so as to have their photo and signature recorded electronically."

It is understood that the decision to call people in will in practice be made by the local welfare officer.

Even though they are designed to increase the fluid roll-out of the public-services card, the new measures will also help to clamp down on fraud.

"These powers are designed to deal specifically with incidences of welfare tourism or non-residency and are proving very effective," the source said.

The bill will also contain measures to help people availing of the one-parent scheme get back to work.

The child's age limit for the payment is being reduced to seven, in order to encourage parents back into the workplace and avoid them falling into poverty and welfare traps.

The bill also means that the normal requirements for the dole – that those in receipt of the dole are actively looking for work – will be relaxed for parents in the first three years after they come off the one-parent payment.

Irish Independent

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