By ine Kerr
New public service card to crack down on welfare fraud
THIS is the new public service card designed to clamp down on welfare fraud and bogus identities that three million people will start receiving in the new year.
The cards, which will cost more than €24m to introduce, will employ the most up to date international features to prevent them from being tampered with.
This includes microprinting and the use of optical variable ink and a kinegram — similar to a hologram — the Department of Social Protection confirmed last night.
The new card will initially contain the holder’s name, photograph, signature and public service number, which will be used to access welfare benefits and other state services.
In addition, personal details such as a person’s date of birth, former surnames and mother’s surname are likely to be electronically encoded on the identity card.
It will take the Department of Social Protection about three to five years to issue the new card to everyone over the age of 16.
And it believes the initial start-up cost of €24m will be returned in the millions saved from clamping down on fraud and improving services.
Government officials have been keen to stress the new card is not an identity card and is designed instead for use within the public services.
Officials say it will allow easier access to public services, cut red tape and clamp down on welfare fraud.
As the card is being introduced over the next three years, thousands may have to present themselves at welfare offices to sign up for it.
Existing data held by the Government — such as photographs, signatures and PPS numbers — will be used to create the cards.
Much of the data is already available to the State through other forms of identification, such as passports.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv said the new card would ensure people could access their details online, by phone or at a front desk with greater speed.
The Public Services Card will, in time, replace cards which are now in use, such as the Social Services Card and the Free Travel Card.
“Security features of the card, which will help in authenticating a person, are also expected to minimise the rate of fraud and error in social welfare schemes,” Mr O Cuiv said.
Amid concerns from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties about people’s right to privacy, Mr O Cuiv stressed the “minimum amount of personal data will be used”.
The card will be implemented in such a way as to enhance, not weaken, the protection of that personal data. Any other information that may be deemed necessary can be either inscribed or electronically encoded on the card.