26 September 2023

IRELAND: Card ruling attacks the vulnerable

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The Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ requirement that parents must have the country’s Public Services Card (PSC) to gain speedy qualification for new national childcare payments has been attacked as discriminating against some of the most vulnerable in society

Two hundred applications a day are expected for the new scheme. However, applications can only be made online until next year. For this, parents are required to have the controversial PSC.

A Department official said those who did not want a PSC would have the option to apply by post.

“However the postal option will not be ready until early 2020, possibly the end of January, so those people will just have to wait,” the official said.

“The reason is that the IT system actually requires a whole other layer of development to support postal-based applications. What we are doing is so big and so innovative that we have to launch it on a phased basis.”

Privacy expert with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Elizabeth Farries said the people who could least afford to lose out on the enhanced supports in the national childcare scheme were those “on the breadline”.

“We’ve seen this for a number of years now, that the PSC targets those who can least afford to fight it,” Ms Farries said.

“Those in receipt of social welfare payments – pensioners, students who need maintenance grants – they’ve all been forced to hand over their personal data in exchange for services to which they are already entitled.”

Earlier this year, Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon (pictured) said it was unlawful for anyone to be required to have a PSC card to access benefits or services beyond those offered by the Department of Social Protection.

It is also understood an enforcement action against the Government by Ms Dixon’s office is imminent.

Dublin, 21 November, 2019

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