The Department of Social Protection has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, a rules based standard for establishing and authenticating an individual’s identity for the purposes of access to public services.
This programme of work, which is known as the Standard Authentication Framework Environment or SAFE for short, also provided for the introduction of a Public Services Card (PSC) to enable individuals to gain access to public services more efficiently and with a minimum of duplication of effort.
The benefits of the introduction of the PSC can be found in the following areas: Reducing the rate of fraud and errors caused by incorrectly identified and authenticated citizens; improving existing cards (e.g. Social Services Cards and Free Travel), through better security features, considerably reducing the potential for forgery and fraudulent use; removing the duplication caused by multiple agencies each solving the problem of identity and authentication themselves; improving the efficiency of every service delivered by the State. Even an improvement of a few percent represents major cost savings.
A PSC is currently issued following a “face-to-face” registration process which involves the capture of an individual’s photograph and signature, the verification of identity and current address as well as the capture of additional data such as answers to security questions to be used in ensuring the future integrity of customers’ data.
Letters which are issuing from the Department to a number of customers in relation to registration for their PSC ask them to bring proof of identity and evidence of current address with them.
The legislative basis for the SAFE registration process is contained in the 2005 Social Welfare Consolidation Act as amended. Section 15 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2012 amended the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 to provide that:
i) for any new claim for social welfare payment, the claimant must satisfy the Minister for Social Protection as to his or her identity and
ii) the Minister for Social Protection must be satisfied as to the identity of a person to whom a Public Services Card (as provided for in Section 263 of the 2005 Act) is issued.
Section 15 further provides that, in order satisfy himself or herself as to the identity of a person, the Minister may request him or her to personally attend at a location designated by the Minister, to present documentation supporting authentication of his or her identity and to allow for capture of a photograph and a signature.