THE DATA PROTECTION Commissioner has said it is “misleading” for the State to continue to suggest that having a Public Services Card makes it more convenient for drivers’ to apply for and renew their licences.
The National Driver’s Licence Service claims on its website that having the card “simplifies” the process for applicants.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, however, Commissioner Helen Dixon said the Data Protection Commission’s landmark investigation into the legality of the Public Services Card found that there was no lawful basis for a person to be told they needed the card for anything other than accessing social welfare or benefits.
The probe also found the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection had no lawful basis for retaining the additional documentation that someone sends in when applying for the card, and that the department had failed in being sufficiently transparent with the public on issues around the cards.
Originally required for just social welfare payments, over the years since its introduction in 2011, this expanded and it was made a requirement for services such as getting a driver’s licence. But the government made a late u-turn in 2018, and later pulled it as a mandatory card for booking a theory test.
Despite the changes, the National Driver’s Licence Service says on its website that having a Public Services Card “will simplify your application process” because it satisfies the requirement for photo ID, evidence of your PPS number, address and residency entitlement.
If a person doesn’t present a Public Services Card at a centre when applying for and renewing a licence, they will need to provide photo ID, evidence of a PPS number, an address and residency entitlement, the NDLS says.
Dixon said it was provisions such as this that was adding to the “real confusion” around the card.
“Otherwise, it says if you bring your passport you have to provide evidence of PPS and proof of address and proof of residency entitlement in Ireland,” she said. “But in fact, the PSC doesn’t prove those latter two things.
And so in fact, it’s misleading to suggest that the PSC in that context is a form of photo ID which represents any additional convenience to the user.
Dixon’s findings have now been furnished to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and she said that she expects action straight away to ensure people aren’t told they need a Public Services Card to access a service other than welfare payments and benefits.
She has asked the department to report back on this in 21 days’ time.
“And included in this is a requirement that they liaise with the specified bodies – as they’re called in the legislation – that have been requiring the public services card to make them aware of the final things and directions that we’ve issued to the department,” she said.