Issues over Public Services Card ‘certainly’ require change - Varadkar

Taoiseach foresees further work on retention of data, transparency and legal basis of PSC

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in  Drogheda, Co Louth, on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda, Co Louth, on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Leo Varadkar has conceded there are “certainly issues that will need to be changed” in the wake of the controversy over the Public Services Card (PSC).

There would have to be alterations involving such issues as retention of data and strengthening of the card’s basis in law, the Taoiseach said.

In a damning report sent to the Department of Social Protection this week, the Data Protection Commission found there was no legal reason to make individuals obtain the card in order to access State services. It was unlawful, the report also found, for the State to retain data gathered as part of the rollout of the card to 3.2 million citizens.

Questioned during a weekend visit to the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda, the Taoiseach said: “There will need to be some changes around the retention of data, transparency and strengthening the legal basis of the Public Services Card.”

One of the issues the Government will soon address is the deletion of retained data on cardholders, he added.

Response planned

The Government would be examining the commission’s report in detail and planned to respond “as quickly as possible”.

The Taoiseach also cautioned cardholders not to throw out their cards just yet. “Keep it, you’re still going to need it,” he said.

The document would still be necessary as a form of identification for access to a number of public services, including pensions, benefits and treatments.

Mr Varadkar said he believes the card has been successful in the fundamental purposes set out when it was first established. “The PSC was established a long time ago to help people access public services and crack down on fraud. It has been successful in that regard.

‘A good project’

“The PSC was around before I became minister for social protection, it continues to exist today and it will into the future,” he said. “It’s still a good project.”

When asked whether he would like to see the card become a requirement for certain services, Mr Varadkar said that while that is not Government policy, “it’s something we’ll have to examine the legal basis for”.

“So from the point of view of day-to-day experience of the public, it is not going to change very much – but there will be changes that we will have to make as a Government,” he said.