Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Department of Social and Family Affairs
Public Service Cards
The Department has developed, in conjunction with a number of other Government Departments, the specifications for a Public Service Card (PSC) under the Standard Authentication Framework Environment, or SAFE, programme. The specification provides for identification features, including a photograph. The aim is to develop a card that acts as a key for access to public services in general, identifying and authenticating individuals as appropriate and where required. Legislative provisions in relation to the introduction of the Public Service Card have been included in Section 263 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended by Section 32 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007).
These specify that the Minister may issue a Public Service Card in the format that he or she deems fit with the person's name, personal public service number, photograph, signature, card issue number and card expiry date to be inscribed on the card. Provision is also included for the person's name, personal public service number, date of birth, sex, all former surnames (if any) of the person's mother, photograph, signature and card expiry date to be electronically encoded on the card. In addition, provision is made for any other information that may be prescribed to be either inscribed or electronically encoded on the card.
Over the past few years significant progress has been made on the implementation of the project including the selection of a preferred bidder to provide a managed service for card production and related bureau services. Technical specifications were finalised and the necessary organisational change was designed. However, in view of the prevailing economic climate the project was suspended until formal sanction to proceed was received from the Department of Finance at the end of last year. A contract was agreed with the managed service provider from early January.
The remaining elements of the production project are expected to take several months to complete. Significant preparatory work has to be undertaken including decisions regarding the final design of the card and to develop a secure site for the personalisation of the cards. It will also be necessary to develop a technical infrastructure within the Department to support the management and administration of the cards. Procurement for this development has commenced. The overall time for completion of initial deployment of a Public Services Card is dependent on the rate at which it will be possible to register all of those to whom it will be issued.
Features such as photographs and signatures and electronic card authentication are expected to minimise the rate of fraud and error arising from incorrectly identified and authenticated individuals. The Public Service Card will replace cards currently in use, such as the Social Services Card and the Free Travel card with highly secure cards. Other Departments and agencies will also be in a position to use the card. A further benefit of the Public Service Card will be the efficiencies that can be achieved by all agencies using the card. The time spent on establishing identity and authentication will be reduced leading to significant potential savings across the whole public sector.