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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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"It is the worst form of humiliation" - Woman denied Public Services Card due to adopted status

“I just burst out crying,” the 50-year-old woman says. “I really think this is the highest form of discrimination.”

shutterstock_796235983 Source: Shutterstock

A SECOND PERSON has spoken of being refused a Public Services Card (PSC) due to the fact that they are adopted.

The 50-year-old woman from the midlands attended, as requested, an appointment to register for a PSC at an Intreo centre in her nearest town in mid December.

As in the case of a 48-year-old man who spoke to TheJournal.ie last November, the woman presented her passport at that appointment, only to be told that her record of birth could not be determined on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s (DEASP) system.

The woman’s story differs from last November’s instance in that she has been in contact with her birth mother, and her children are aware that she is adopted – neither are the case with the man we previously spoke to.

At her registration meeting, when she had volunteered that she is an adopted person, the woman was informed that in order to fully register for the card it would be necessary for her to present an adoption certificate. The requirement for same is listed on the back of the invitation to attend for a PSC – however the woman hadn’t noticed this stipulation.

psc The Public Services Card

“At the end of the day it was just pure humiliation, having your adoption aired in public like that” the woman told TheJournal.ie.

“The whole thing has brought back a lot of emotions I haven’t had to deal with in a long time.”

I really think this is the highest form of discrimination – they make an appointment for someone and they then drag up a whole grave’s worth of stuff.

The woman says she cannot understand why her passport is considered sufficient proof of identity to travel to other countries, but yet is not deemed worthy enough for her to register for a PSC.

“I started off having a great day, and then the whole bottom fell out of my world,” she says of the experience at the Intreo centre.

I just burst out crying. The girl was very official but there wasn’t any empathy for the situation.

Data protection

The PSC has been causing controversy from a data protection point of view for almost a year.

In April 2017 it was revealed that the government plans to expand its usage, which had heretofore been limited to accessing social welfare jobseekers’ payments, to becoming a prerequisite for those seeking a driver theory test, or renewing a passport. It has likewise now been expanded as a requirement for accessing all welfare services (which led to DEASP Minister Regina Doherty to infamously describe the card as being ‘mandatory but not compulsory’).

The legislative basis, or lack thereof, for these moves has been heavily disputed.

PSC1 The woman's PSC registration invitation letter

In this case, the woman renewed her passport as recently as 2013, so the immediate need for a PSC to renew that document does not exist.

“Am I going to get a card? No, I don’t need it. I’m not on social welfare,” she says.

I’ll come back if I have to by law, and not before. They asked me to take the photo anyway but I didn’t see why I should. What would be the point?

The woman claims she consulted the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) regarding her predicament, with a representative telling her there is “uproar going on over this situation” at the moment.

A request for comment from the AAI had not been returned at the time of publication.

Adoption certificates, meanwhile, can be applied for here, at a cost of €40 apiece.

Previously, DEASP told another citizen that the reason for an applicant having to produce an adoption certificate upon registration is that the department had all records from the General Register Office (GRO) of births, adoptions, and deaths transferred to it from the Department of Health in 2008.

Resized_dia1001 paint

“It is through the Public Services Card process that the department is confirming and updating the birth/adoption information held on our IT systems with the record from GRO,” a previous response issued by DEASP to that person reads.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie regarding the woman in the midlands’ situation, the department said that it does not have access to the Irish Adoption Register “for clear reasons of data protection, confidentiality and privacy” (the only body with access to the index which links a person’s birth and adoptive identities is the AAI).

Adoption register

However, an adoption certificate does not detail a person’s birth or birth mother’s identities – so the manner in which it is being used to ‘fill in the gaps’ remains unclear. Likewise, an adopted person’s short-form birth certificate details information extracted from the adoption register – but is not deemed acceptable by DEASP with regards to PSC registration.

The department also consistently cites its SAFE2 (Standard Authentication Framework Environment) verification standard as the reason for requiring an adoption cert – however SAFE2 is a construct of the Irish government – it is not an international verification standard.

“Adopted people are treated in the same way as other individuals in terms of the verification of their identity,” a department spokesperson said. “The department endeavours to handle all cases with due sensitivity and care.”

However the SAFE registration process requires the same identity verification for adopted and non-adopted individuals.

As a follow-on from the two situations TheJournal.ie has now covered, we requested of DEASP the number of adopted people who have registered for a PSC with an adoption cert, together with the number of such people who had been denied a card due to their refusal to produce, or obtain, such a cert.

The department replied that such statistics, in both cases, “are not available”.

The 48-year-old man TheJournal.ie previously spoke to regarding his own issue, which saw him denied a PSC in July 2017 due to a refusal to obtain an adoption cert, has meanwhile been continuing to write to Social Protection calling for a PSC to be issued to him.

He also took his case to the Office of the Ombudsman, which has acknowledged that it is currently attempting to resolve the impasse between him and DEASP.

“Someone is going to have their life ruined because of this,” he now says. “It’s that serious.”

The man says he understands “the need” for the PSC in order to prevent fraud, but repeats his assertion that someone who does not know they are adopted may end up finding out via the PSC registration process.

“Think about that. How would that make you feel? Think of your own family life, and then you’re applying for something, which they asked you to register for remember, and out of the blue you find out that you’re not who you thought you are.”

Radio adverts

You’re looking at something where a government ends up having to apologise to people because they’ve found out the people they thought are their parents aren’t and something has gone badly wrong.

“What caught in my craw was the ads on the radio recently which talked about how easy it is to apply for a card. That certainly hasn’t been my experience.”

“If you’ve got a situation where someone is sent home to talk to their parents who had no prior knowledge of their status, that is an appalling situation,” says Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) regarding the PSC situation.

You could solve this of course by giving DEASP access to the adoption authority’s records. But then you’d have people on the streets protesting. Because why should some random civil servant know more about your data and your family situation than you know yourself?

DEASP recently acknowledged, meanwhile, that the target of issuing three million PSCs by end 2017 had been met.

The department had been in a race against time to fulfil that figure in order to meet a contract agreed with the card’s producer, Biometric Card Services, that if that number of cards hadn’t been issued the full amount due for the three million units would fall liable.

Currently there are between 90,000 and 100,000 adopted people in Ireland, the vast majority of them Irish-born. It’s estimated that roughly 40% of that number would be unaware that they’re adopted.

It has been impossible for adopted people to access their own birth information since 1952 – with a sustained lobbying action on the part of adoptive parents of the time seeing the law changed to respect their wishes on the matter foremost.

Read: Varadkar says Ireland’s abortion laws are ‘too restrictive and need to be reformed’

Read: ‘This should not have happened’: Parents of baby who died shortly after birth settle case with hospital

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