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Vast majority of organisations asked about the PSC said they don't benefit from using it

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties said that there was some confusion and inconsistency from local authorities and other bodies.

Image: Leah Farrell

ALMOST ALL ORGANISATIONS who responded to a survey about the Public Services Card (PSC) said that their office did not specifically benefit from using it.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) recently surveyed 164 government and public bodies who are directly or indirectly listed as bodies with permission to use the PSC under the Social Welfare Act.

Of those 164 groups, just 42 responded, which the ICCL said “reflects the general opacity surrounding the card”, adding that “we were concerned but unsurprised by the low response rate”.

Of those who did respond, 91% said that their office did not specifically benefit from the PSC, while 73% said they had no further intention of implementing it.

A further 9% said they would seek to limit any further rollout of the card, with one government agency explicitly noting that it had privacy concerns about the PSC.

Where did the PSC come from?

The Public Services Card was initially rolled out as a card for social welfare recipients in 2012, with the government arguing that it would increase efficiency.

But since 2016, the government announced that the card would be needed for other interactions with the State, such as applying for a passport, a drivers licence, and claiming dental and optical benefits covered by the PSRI.

In August 2017, the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty caused some confusion when she said that the card was “mandatory but not compulsory”.

Due to the PSC being continually in the headlines, concerns from various quarters including the Department of Transport and privacy experts, the government has been rowing back on where the PSC is required.

Confusion from similar groups

The ICCL said it sent its survey to government departments and a wide range of public bodies which it believed might be using the PSC, or the MyGov.ie system.

This included local authorities, education bodies including education and training boards and universities, health bodies including hospitals, and a wide range of statutory and regulatory bodies.

Government departments did reference a substantive response from Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which the ICCL has take as the main government position.

“In general, the survey responses we received demonstrate confusion about the status of the PSC system,” the ICCL said.

Some bodies indicated that they had no plans to make use of the PSC in sectors where it is already in use. Often there was inconsistency or even contradictions within responses received.
For example, some bodies said they did not use the PSC, but they did acknowledge that a verified MyGov.ie identity was need to access services. The PSC is a prerequisite to MyGov.ie.

There was also inconsistency between the response of similar bodies such as local authorities.

Based on the survey, the ICCL said it believes that there is no unified approach to the PSC “because there is no unified understanding of what the system is, what it is for, or what bodies can use it”.

“We believe this confusion also stems from the legal uncertainty around the PSC system.”

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