Woman’s pension to be restored in public services card row

Woman’s payments were cut off for 18 months as she refused to register for the card

A woman whose pension was cut off for 18 months because she refused to register for a public services card is to have her payments restored and will be paid arrears of over €15,000. File photograph: Getty Images

A woman whose pension was cut off for 18 months because she refused to register for a public services card is to have her payments restored and will be paid arrears of over €15,000. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A woman whose pension was cut off for 18 months because she refused to register for a public services card is to have her payments restored and will be paid arrears of over €15,000.

The Department of Social Protection suspended the woman’s pension in January 2016 after she declined to attend appointments to register for the card. She appealed the decision to the independent appeals office but that was rejected.

She was subsequently referred to a solicitor by digital privacy group Digital Rights Ireland after her case was reported in The Irish Times last August.

A higher-level appeal against the earlier decision was subsequently allowed and the woman has now been informed that her pension will be restored.

However, she has insisted she will still not register for the state card, which the Department says is mandatory for accessing its services.

Solicitor Rossa McMahon said: “I am pleased to confirm that the chief appeals officer has allowed my client’s appeal against the cancellation of her non-contributory pension. Her pension will now be restored and she will be paid the arrears which have been withheld from her since January 22nd, 2016. I am instructed that my client does not intend to register for a public services card.”

Proper procedures

It is understood the appeal succeeded because proper procedures were not followed in cancelling it.

The woman, who prefers not to be identified, had said she felt “bullied” following several letters from the department inviting her to register.

She had told officials she would get the card if they could show her it was “mandatory” but nothing had been produced to show her that this was the case.

The card is to become a requirement from later this year for all people seeking an Irish passport, including a renewal. It will also be required from next year for all those seeking a driving licence and there are plans to extend its use for other services, including student grants and school transport.

Many public bodies have increasingly been using the card to validate people’s identities for the purposes of delivering services. About 2.75 million cards have been issued to date but Ministers have insisted the card is not “compulsory”.

However, civil rights groups have described it as a “national identity card by the back door”.