Irish Water seeks PPS numbers of householders and children

Four-page forms asking for bank and personal details to be sent out in September

Bríd Smith (second from right) at a water charges protest during the local election campaign with fellow People Before Profit candidates Paul Shields,  Kim O’Donnell and Andrew Keegan. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Bríd Smith (second from right) at a water charges protest during the local election campaign with fellow People Before Profit candidates Paul Shields, Kim O’Donnell and Andrew Keegan. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

Every householder will be asked to provide their bank account details, their PPS numbers and the PPS numbers of any children living with them to Irish Water.

The new utility, which will begin charging for water from October 1st, with the first bills in January, will begin posting the “allowances application form” in September. The four-page form will have to be returned by October 31st.

The form asks the “account holder” for their name and address, whether they are a tenant or owner, and the details about what type of piped water they receive and what type of sewerage facility they use.

Section 3 of the form asks for the householder’s personal public service (PPS) number as well as those of any children aged 17 years or younger “who are in receipt of child benefit”.

Space is provided for six children’s PPS numbers and anyone with more children will have to contact the utility.

Free allowance

It remains unclear what the water allowance for children will be. The Government announced a free allowance of up to 38,000 litres per year per child; however, Irish Water has applied to the Commission of Energy Regulation (CER) to have this reduced.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection confirmed there “could be a small number of children resident in the State who do not have PPS numbers”, and said a child could not get Child Benefit without one. It was the responsibility of parents or guardians to apply for one.

A spokeswoman for Pavee Point said some Roma families with literacy and other difficulties faced problems obtaining PPS numbers for their children.

The final section of the form is a direct debit mandate, to be filled in with the international bank account number to be debited, the name of the bank, the name of the account holder and their signature. The option of a “recurrent payment” is pre-ticked.

Dublin City councillor Bríd Smith of People Before Profit said she was “alarmed” at the intrusion into personal details.

“This is going to create fear and fuel anger in people, particularly given the timing,” she said. “September is an expensive time for families, with rent increases and back-to-school costs, and it is going to really frighten people.”

“It shows how important it is that we have an organised response to this unjustifiable new charge, and a response from the trade union movement to stand up for ordinary, working families.”

Asked what would happen if householders did not fill in the form, a spokeswoman said Irish Water was “still engaged with CER on the final details of the communication”.

She said: “Irish Water is currently engaged with CER to work through the details of what this communication will entail, and it is the priority of Irish Water that the information being sent out is accessible to all and meets the needs of all our customers.”

The Government had announced a child’s allowance of up to 38,000 litres, making children’s usage effectively free, and that this commitment remains.