Public services card – citizens and rights

 

Sir, – The Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides for two cards. Section 263 empowers the Minister to issue a public services card. It permits certain specified details to be inscribed onto and others to be encoded into it. It also permits “any other information that may be prescribed” to be inscribed or encoded. It’s not clear if the Department of Social Protection ever legislated or regulated to prescribe other information to be put on, or in, this card.

Now read Section 264, which empowers the Minister to issue a payment card. It provides that: “The Minister may permit any information, that may be prescribed, to be either inscribed or electronically encoded onto a card, which is capable of being so inscribed or encoded, other than a public service card for the purpose of payment of benefit.”

Did you notice that? Two sections, one following the other, both similarly worded, both dealing with two completely different kinds of card. One card for public services, and the other, a payment card, for social welfare.

The legislation does not appear to allow the public service card to double up as a payment card. Nor does it appear to allow information on a payment card to be exported to a public service card.

Yet the Minister insists that the law entitles her department to refuse a benefit unless a person produces a public service card, whereas the basis for refusal (if there is such a basis) ought be the failure to produce a payment card.

The problem for the department is that, while the legislation provides for a separate payment card, it appears not to have one, so is relying instead on the existing public service card.

The problem with the public services card is that it may be loading it with information (biometrics) and have not legislated or regulated for it. When I had my photo taken for the public service card, there wasn’t even a whisper about biometric information being captured, extracted or shared.

I have no problem with the Government protecting the exchequer, but it should not refuse to pay money properly due, or trample the rights of the citizen, because it has not done its homework. – Yours, etc,

KEALAN FLYNN,

Galway.

Sir, – The public services card is not an identity card, according to various Ministers, but you have to use it to prove your identity, which is a perfect example of doublespeak. – Yours, etc,

DAVID MURNANE,

Dunshaughlin,

Co Meath.

Sir, – As one of the people opposed to the public services card on the grounds of confidentiality, I wish to start a national campaign against its introduction. In order to start the campaign, I would ask all individuals who wish to participate to send their name, address, PPS number, mother’s maiden name and a recent photo to me,r care of the editor. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN CULLEN,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – If a public services card is going to be necessary to access almost all State services, why don’t we make the new card our passport and get rid of the big, cumbersome, old-fashioned red passport with the harp on it?

What’s the point in having two national systems of identity side by side? – Yours, etc,

PAVEL MARIANSKI,

Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Sir, – Constance Morris will buy me a coffee if I can tell her what is wrong with the public services card (August 31st).

I will buy her a five-course dinner with wine in a posh restaurant if she can tell me what is wrong with my lovely new biometric passport, which is no longer considered to be sufficient evidence of identity to get a driving licence. Only a public services card will suffice. – Yours, etc,

MARY MORRISSEY,

Castletownbere,

Co Cork.