20 November 2019
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has today hit out at the National Childcare Scheme Public Services Card requirement saying that, not only is this requirement illegal, but it is highly discriminatory and will violate the privacy rights of those living in poverty.
In order to apply for the National Childcare Scheme, you need to have a Public Services Card. There is an alternative paper application process, but that does not start until January and there is no back payment. In August this year, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) ruled that any department other than welfare which required the PSC for services would be illegal.
Elizabeth Farries, privacy expert with ICCL, said:
Who are the people who cannot afford to lose one month in childcare payments? Those who are living on the breadline, of course. We’ve seen this for a number of years now, that the PSC targets those who can least afford to fight it. Those in receipt of social welfare payments, pensioners, students who need maintenance grants, they’ve all been forced to hand over their personal data in exchange for services to which they are already entitled.
In July of this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, visited Ireland and slammed the discriminatory nature of digital welfare systems like the PSC. He flagged the fact that there was no clear information available regarding what state agencies would be able to gain access to the information stored on the card, and that it potentially could be used to store highly sensitive health data down the line. The poverty expert said that any database, including those which carry sensitive personal information, is always open to attack.
Ms Farries continued:
In recent days it has emerged that a teacher was denied sickness benefit after she refused to get the PSC, citing the DPC report. The Department of Social Protection continue to ignore the state’s independent regulator, continue to roll out this illegal scheme, and continue to force it upon people who need welfare services the most, including those dependent on the National Child Care scheme.
The department has said they will challenge the DPC findings against the card, and all rulings in the DPC report, as soon as the DPC issues enforcement proceedings.
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