Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Ceisteanna (56)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

56. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department is withholding payments in circumstances in which a person entitled to same declines to register for a public services card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8092/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The primary legislative provisions for SAFE registration and identity verification are set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended).  These provisions require a person to satisfy the Minister as to their identity and allow for disallowance or disqualification from receipt of a benefit in the event that it is not done. 

Given that my Department spends over €19bn annually on supports and services, we need to be sure that people who access these services are the people who are entitled to receive them.  Accordingly, it is reasonable to ask people to verify their identity to a substantial level of assurance which is what the SAFE 2 registration process is about. Once a person has completed the SAFE 2 process, a Public Services Card (PSC) issues to a person.  

Where a person is invited to satisfy the Minister as to their identity in the manner prescribed in law, the person is required to engage with that process.  My Department makes it clear to people in receipt of social welfare payments or free travel entitlements that they do need to complete a SAFE 2 registration to access, or continue to access, payments and entitlements.  In the main, people are invited to a scheduled registration appointment but they may also book a different time/date to suit them, either online via www.mywelfare.ie, by contacting the Department’s offices, or by walking in to ask for the next available appointment.

The Department does not collect data on the number of individuals who currently -  or who at any point in time - have had a payment stopped by reason of failing to complete the SAFE 2 registration process.  This issue had not arisen when the current IT systems were being designed and to no separate category was included for this purpose. in any case, this data would be fluid in nature given, for example, that people who have a payment or entitlement suspended or stopped may subsequently decide to complete the SAFE 2 process and will, therefore, have their payment or entitlement reinstated, within a relatively short period of time in some cases.

The decision to stop a payment is never made lightly.  However, where a person does not satisfy the legal requirements in relation to identity, a payment can be disqualified.  In advance of any such disqualification, my Department makes every effort to engage with the person to explain the legislative basis for the SAFE 2 registration process and the consequences of potential disqualification.  Where a payment has been disqualified and the person  subsequently successfully completes the SAFE 2 registration process, their payment will be reinstated by the Department,  assuming they continue to meet all qualifying criteria for that payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for Deputy.