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Dept Social Protection to publish Commission's PSC report 'once full consideration is complete'

The DPC rejects government claims that making the card a requirement for services was lawful.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty
Image: Leah Farrell

THE DEPARTMENT OF Social Protection has confirmed that it intends to publish the Data Protection Commission’s report on the Public Services Card (PSC) on its website once a full consideration of the report is complete. 

The report outlines how there is no lawful basis for any department, except for the Department of Social Protection, for insisting a client obtain a PSC to use or access a public service.

The government has repeatedly stated that including the PSC as a requirement to access state services was not a breach of any data protection laws. 

The report also stated that all data collected on citizens as part of the PSC process must now be deleted.

The Department said it is currently reviewing the report together with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. 

“This process is not yet complete and is expected to take another week or so,” the Department said in a statement. 

While the Department understands that some may wish for us to respond sooner, it should be noted that it is a comprehensive report and requires significant attention. 

The Department denied claims that it has had the report for a year. 

It said the Data Protection Commission provided a “draft investigation report” in August of last year “at the midpoint of a two-year investigation”.

The Department said the draft report “came with instructions that it was provided on a strictly confidential basis and was not to be shared with any third parties”.

“This draft report contained what it described as preliminary findings and the DPC asked the Department to make submissions on these findings,” it said.

The Department said the report “also posed a number of additional questions in the form of requests for information”.

“These submissions and response to requests for information were sought to assist the DPC in the ongoing investigation and to inform the content of the final report.”

The Department said it considered the interim report “very carefully” and sought the advice of the Attorney General’s Office. 

“Based on this consideration, and the advice received, the Department submitted a very detailed response setting out how it believed the SAFE process/PSC was administered in full compliance with all relevant law,” the Department said. 

“In this context, in the absence of any determination by the DPC and pending the receipt of the final report, the Department and other specified bodies continued to rely on the PSC and SAFE process.”

The Department said it received the revised and final version of the report last Thursday, which contained a “significant volume of additional analysis”.

It added that “a number of the findings have been changed and some have been removed”. 

Today, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said: “Both myself and my Department take very seriously the findings of the Data Protection Commission and the good work it does. 

For that reason, it is important that bodies that are subject to findings by the Commission give very careful consideration to those findings. Such careful consideration is also necessary in order to be fair to the Commission and to ensure that when we do speak that the public hears a properly prepared response. 

“As soon as our consideration of this final report is complete, the Department will publish its response along with the report and any other relevant information on its website and I will speak then at greater length on the matter.” 

The Public Services Card was first introduced back in 2011 – when 4,000 cards were issued in a pilot project. By 2019, over 3 million of them had been created. 

The government said the card would increase efficiency in delivering public services, and help to tackle social welfare fraud. 

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