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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 21 November, 2019
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What is the Public Services Card?

The Public Services Card will include facial imaging software to help detect and prevent welfare fraud. What else do we know about this new ID card?

Minister Joan Burton
Minister Joan Burton
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

A NEW ID card for people claiming social welfare payments is being rolled out in Ireland. But what will it involve?

We take a look at the the Public Services Card (PSC), which the Department of Social Protection says “will act as a key for access to public services in general, identifying and authenticating individuals as appropriate and where required”.

When the outgoing Minister for Social Protection Eamon Ó Cuiv announced the introduction of the cards, it was branded “a costly political stunt” by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. The cards are now on their way – but it will take a few years before they are fully introduced.

Cost

The total cost of the project is estimated to be in the region of €24 million for a population of 3 million people. There will be no charge to members of the public to get their Public Services Card.

What is the card for?

The card will provide public service providers with verification of an individual’s identity. The Department of Social Protection said this will reduce the resources currently required to do so each time a member of the public tries to access a public service.

It will also make it harder for people to use false identities, the department said.

Facial recognition

The cards are issued “following a robust registration process” and incorporate identification features including a photograph (facial image) and an electronic signature.

The Department said it requires facial image matching software to enhance the registration process and to help detect and/or prevent duplicate registrations.

Pilot programme

A pilot system for the registration processes and ICT systems began in July in Tullamore and was extended to Dublin (Kings Inn) and Sligo.

The PSC issue facility was put into production at the beginning of October and over 7,000 PSCs have been issued to date.

These cards are available to be used by many public service bodies including the Department of Social Protection and can be used to collect social welfare payments at post offices.

Resources

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sanctioned resources for this project, and these are currently being sourced and deployed.

The pilot also indicated the need for legislative changes to support the new processes. These were included in the recent Social Welfare and Pensions Act.

How long will roll out take?

The Department is now finalising plans for a national roll-out of the new cards on a phased basis commencing this month.

While roll out of the card will be done as securely and speedily as possible, “it will take a number of years to complete”, the Department said. The initial focus will be on roll out to clients of working age.

How do you get the card?

Members of the public will be contacted with an appointment to go to their nearest Social Welfare Local Office to have their photograph taken for the card as part of the registration process.

They should bring at least one form of photographic ID and one form showing their current address.

Last-minute rubberstamping of Public Service Cards scheme “a costly political stunt”>

Read: Government unveils scheme to get unemployed back to work>

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