Press Release shapes

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D., has announced that the Government has agreed significant measures that will improve data-sharing and data-governance in the public service.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is to prepare the Heads of a Data-Sharing and Governance Bill, with the following core objectives:

  1. To make lawful data-sharing easier by providing a framework that public bodies can use to establish the necessary legal basis;
  2. To improve the governance and security of all data-sharing in the public service; and
  3. To provide a mechanism that can be used to encourage public bodies to move away from paper documents when dealing with citizens and businesses.

The Government has also requested that the Department of Social Protection undertake a consultative examination of the legal basis of the PPSN to ensure that is aligned with current requirements.

The Government agreed that an implementation plan for the Individual Health Identifier (IHI) would be prepared by the Department of Health, on the basis that the IHI will retain a one-to-one link to the PPSN.

Finally, the Inter-departmental SAFE Committee will be re-constituted to drive the rollout of the Public Services Card across the public service.

Minister Howlin said “The public service needs to share data to deliver services, and more data-sharing will be necessary to deliver the joined-up services we aspire to. At the same time data protection and privacy are concerns for all of us. Today we agreed that a new legal framework is required to enable the public service deliver the next generation of services both effectively and securely.”


18 September, 2013


Note for Editors

The decisions taken today are on foot of recommendations arising from the work of the Data-Sharing Clearing House, which was established in 2012. They also reflect commitments in the Public Service Reform Plan and are a key enabler to building the National Data Infrastructure recommended by the National Statistics Board.

Data-Sharing and Governance Bill

The purpose of the proposed Bill is:

1. To improve the experience of citizens accessing services by requiring public bodies to use data that is already available electronically in the public service when delivering services by removing the option of relying on certain paper documents to verify provided information, but instead requiring that it look up the data or seek it from the relevant public body. Removal of the option to request a particular paper document by a particular public body will only take place where the purpose(s) for which the document was being requested can be met by other channels, and where there will no adverse effect on the efficiency or control measures of the particular public body.

2. To provide a legal framework to support access to data held by other public bodies. It is expected that when the new Data Protection Regulation comes into force that all data-sharing and linking in the public service will require an explicit legal basis, and a legal framework usable by smaller public bodies will be required to facilitate the establishment of such a legal basis in a reasonable timeframe.

3. Set down data-sharing and data-linking principles for all public bodies, including requirements around structure, project governance and security. These would provide a statutory basis for best practice, building on existing DPC guidelines and PER Circular 17/2012, and including a requirement to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment prior to undertaking any new data-sharing projects.

Review of the legal basis of the PPSN

The legal basis of the PPSN is set out in the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005. Briefly, this legislation controls the issue, use and sharing of the PPSN – the PPSN remains a restricted number which can only be used by certain specified bodies and only for the purposes of public service transactions. To ensure that the legal basis remains aligned with the requirements of the wider public service, it is proposed that the Department of Social Protection would lead a consultative examination of the legal basis of the PPSN.

Individual Health Identifier

The issue of an Individual Health Identifier (IHI) has been under consideration for some time. One of the key questions has been the suitability of the PPSN to be the IHI. This has been considered at length by HIQA and the Department of Health. While the research has found that the PPSN would not be suitable as the IHI, there has been a concern that implementing a separate IHI could result in unacceptable duplication of the PPSN infrastructure. Following further discussions, it is now felt that a separate IHI can be developed which has a one-to-one link with the PPSN and that the PPSN and Public Service Card (PSC) infrastructure can be used as the means by which identity management infrastructure will be provided by the health services. The Government has asked the Department of Health to prepare an implementation plan for the IHI on this basis. This approach will protect the State’s significant investment in identity management while also ensuring that patient confidentiality and safety are protected and provide a key enabler for reform of the health system.

Public Services Card

The Inter-Departmental SAFE Committee was previously used to agree standards and co-ordinate activities in related areas. This Committee is to be re-constituted with a remit to ensure the use of the Public Services Card for all appropriate Government services by 2016.