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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C

So, what do you need a Public Services Card for right now?

The government is ploughing ahead with its support for the card, but what do you need it for right now?

THE PUBLIC SERVICES Card, according to the government, has been a “worthwhile investment in better public services” which has allowed the public to access government services in a “streamlined manner”.

However, the independent regulator disagrees. The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has found that the card is actually an impediment to accessing many services and, furthermore, making it mandatory for anything other than accessing welfare has no lawful basis.

The government has said it doesn’t accept the findings of the DPC and won’t be implementing any of its findings.

In light of that, the DPC will have to initiate enforcement action to try to compel the government to comply which may end up in a court battle. 

A PSC has been issued to over 3 million people in Ireland, so it’s likely many readers will have one. Given everything that’s been happening with the Public Services Card, here’s a refresher on what you currently need it for.

What you need the PSC for

Right now, you need it if you’re claiming a social welfare payment.

If you’re coming into contact with the welfare system for the first time, such as jobseekers’ allowance or you’ve recently qualified for a pension, you’ll likely be told to go to your local Intreo office to apply for the PSC.

The DPC found that there is a lawful basis for the department to require you to get one so you can access welfare.

Commissioner Helen Dixon said that her finding doesn’t impact the operation of the PSC for welfare or anyone who currently has a card. 

And since the government isn’t backing down in any way when it comes to the card, you will need a PSC for welfare well into the foreseeable future.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection published a document in 2017  titled “Why might I need a Public Services Card in the future?”.

It envisioned a range of services you’d need it for over the next few years. However, many of these did not come to pass or the requirement was introduced and then withdrawn.

What you don’t need it for

Although it is not a mandatory requirement to get a driver’s licence or do your theory test, the National Driver’s Licence Service says on its website that having a PSC “will simplify your application process” because it satisfies the requirement for photo ID, evidence of your PPS number, address and residency entitlement. has spoken to a number of applicants for a driving licence who was told having a PSC could make their application easier. 

According to Dixon, however, it’s “misleading” to suggest that having a PSC represents any additional convenience when applying for your driver’s licence.

It was also a requirement for adults applying for a passport for the first time. This week, the Passport Office confirmed first-time applicants will no longer need a PSC

Last week,’s The Explainer podcast took a look at why there is so much controversy over the Public Services Card. You can find links to listen to it below.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

Find a full list of where the podcast is available here.

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