Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Questions (343, 344)

Conor Lenihan

Question:

429 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action her Department is taking with a view to implementing the proposed smartcard for social services; and the timetable she envisages for its introduction. [6960/04]

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Conor Lenihan

Question:

430 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the composition of her departmental and interdepartmental group that has been established to plan the introduction of a smartcard for all social services provided by the State; and if she has set a target date by which this card can be circulated to users of State services. [6961/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 429 and 430 together.

My Department currently issues a social services card. This caters for certain payment customers of my Department and it is also a permanent record of the personal public service number, the PPS number, which is the individual's unique identifier in his or her dealings with public services. Each year, the social services card is automatically issued to individuals as they reach 16 years of age, and some 2.3 million cards have been issued since 1992. Other Departments currently issue separate cards for access to various services, and some of these cards also make use of the PPS number.

Under the Social Welfare Act, 1998, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has legislative responsibility for the PPS number and for the development of a public service card containing a person's name, PPS number, and other details such as their date of birth and gender. The development of a public service card which could be used to access a range of public services is also under examination in the context of overall plans to modernise public service delivery, integrate services, reduce bureaucracy and make the delivery of public services to individuals easier and more efficient. The public service card, based on the PPS number, would provide a reliable method for authenticating identity for access to a range of public services.

In this connection, my Department's officials and officials of the REACH agency have engaged in preliminary consultation with other Departments that are major providers of public services. The purpose of their consultations was to look at current card use and explore the possible uses of a public service card in line with wider Government strategy for enabling delivery of public services. Following in this work, my Department and the Department of Finance are developing proposals for the introduction and use of the public service card. These proposals will be brought forward for the consideration by Government in the near future.