Fine Gael Limerick TD, Patrick O’Donovan, has today (Wednesday) said the Government is making progress on introducing reforms to the social welfare system to combat fraud. In a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, Deputy O’Donovan asked for an update on a number of measures aimed at combatting fraud, including ICT improvements and the introduction of bio-metric cards.
“In order to ensure we can make social welfare payments to those who need them most, we must do everything possible to crack down on fraud. Fraud is costing the State millions of euro a year, at a time when our resources are under considerable pressure, and demands on the social welfare system have risen.
“I have received assurances from Minister Burton that her Department is working on a single ICT platform, which will ensure information on claimants can be fully and automatically available across all of the Department’s schemes and places of business. This essentially means that it will be much easier for the Department to check if someone is wrongly claiming a number of payments they are not entitled to. This is being matched with ongoing progress on the better sharing of information between Government departments and State bodies.
“Since the launch of the Public Services Card (PSC) last year, more than 110,000 cards have been issued. The PSC is not only helping to combat fraud, it will replace cards currently in use, such as the Social Services Card and the Free Travel Card, with a highly secure card. The Minister has said that while the PSC could be used to store biometric information, like fingerprints and facial patterns, there are no plans to do so at present. I would encourage the Minister to keep this option in mind as we continue to look at ways to comprehensively combat fraud.
“I would like further progress to be made on the introduction of online signing on. While electronic signing is being rolled out in Social Protection offices, this still requires claimants to physically go into the office to pick up their payment. Giving people the option of signing on online, with proper security checks in place, could cut queues and administration costs, and make the entire system more efficient.”