Then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, at the Public Services Card Centre, D’Olier House in Dublin after he registered for a PSC in 2016
In the Dáil.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty raised Cianan Brennan’s article in yesterday’s Irish Examiner with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe.
Mr Cianan reported that Mr Donohoe’s department ordered the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to drop a secondary method for parents to apply for National Childcare Scheme subsidies – ensuring that the only way parents can apply for the subsidies will be through MyGovID, for which one needs a Public Services Card.
Mr Doherty yesterday evening asked Mr Donohoe twice why the department ordered for the second method to be dropped and, twice, Mr Donohoe failed to give a reason for the move.
From their exchange:
Pearse Doherty: “The new national childcare scheme opens for applications on 29 October. No parent can apply for this scheme without a public services card.
“This is despite the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision that there is no legal basis for this requirement and it being deemed illegal by the commissioner.
“Parents who do not have a public services card will have no choice but to wait until January when written applications can be made. Why did the Department interject when a secondary method to apply for this scheme was to be provided for parents?
“At the insistence of the Department, this proposal was dropped by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
“Will the Minister explain this, given that the Data Protection Commissioner has deemed that there is no legal basis for leaving parents with only one option as regards the form of identification they can use to apply for the scheme?”
Paschal Donohoe: “My good colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, is working on ways to ensure that families and parents will be able to access the national childcare scheme.
“The Deputy referred to me being in the dock on this matter. I fully understand the views of the Data Protection Commission, an institution which I take seriously. In each of the budgets that I have introduced, I have made more resources available to the commission because it is an important organisation for the management of information, both for the private sector and Government.
“I have taken a different view on the role of the public services card following legal advice that has been made available to me. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, and I did not take lightly the decision we made to offer a differing view from that of the Data Protection Commissioner.
“This was done after we obtained legal advice on where we stood, which left me satisfied that the card has robust legal standing and that the appropriate course was to make clear that we take a different view from the commissioner on this issue. I know the commissioner has spoken to the Oireachtas about the issue and indicated the course of action she is likely to take.
Doherty: “Will the Minister outline why his Department insisted that a second form of access to the national childcare scheme be dropped, leaving parents with only the public services card as a means of accessing this scheme?”
Donohoe: “We believe that we are on solid legal foundations in using the public services card as a way to help citizens to access services efficiently. Encouraging greater use of the public services card over time will lead to more convenient and efficient ways in which families and citizens can access public services.”
Doherty: “It is not very convenient for parents.”
When the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon appeared before the Public Accounts Committee last week – on foot of her examination of the PSC and her finding that it was unlawful for the State to require people to have a card in order to obtain any services beyond those offered by the Department of Social Protection – Ms Dixon said the following about the National Childcare Scheme and the PSC stipulation:
“The only alternative option that appears to be offered is a manual, paper-based application that will not be ready until the new year and will not provide back payments. Clearly, this is completely at odds with the findings of our report and the directions we have issued.”
Read back in full here
Yesterday: Card Shark