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News : Private Firm to Seek PPS Numbers for Water Grant
Dublin, Ireland, April 9, 2015 -- A private company will take PPS numbers and banking details from Irish Water customers unable to apply for the €100 water conservation grant online.
Workers at a call centre will take personal information over the phone before inputting it into a secure computer network, the Department of Social Protection has confirmed.
The arrangements will apply to customers unable to apply for the grant using an online application system, or those who choose to be paid by cheque.
It comes following controversy in recent months about Irish Water seeking PPS numbers from customers registering with the utility.
Following a public backlash, the Government removed the obligation to provide PPS numbers and Irish Water is currently deleting its database. The paper and electronic records are gone, but telephone recordings have yet to be eliminated.
But tender documents show that the Department of Social Protection now plans to force households to supply a PPS number when registering for the grant, and an outside company will be employed to operate a call centre for households who are eligible.
The application process will begin from Monday, August 24 and run until Friday, October 9, a period of just under eight weeks. Applications cannot be made outside this period.
The grant will be paid in September, and the payment for 2016 is likely to be made in the first quarter of next year. Customers can apply for the grant online at a new website, but can also register by calling a low-call number.
The successful tenderer will provide an "initial point of contact" for customers, general information and will also assist customers, including taking details.
"The successful tenderer will complete the on-line application process for customers unable to complete the process themselves, as well as customers who are unable to provide bank account details and who will be paid by cheque," the documents state.
"Where customers are unable to complete the online application, subject to the customer's consent, the successful tenderer will complete the application on their behalf, subject to the relevant reference numbers, PPSN and bank account details being provided.
"A small number may require payment by cheque…where bank account details are unavailable, the successful tenderer will collect information required for the issuing of a payment by cheque."
Households who wish to avail of the grant must register with Irish Water by June 30. The company will issue reference numbers, and this information, along with name and address, confirmation that the application is in respect of their primary residence only, PPS numbers and bank account details will be required for the payment to be processed.
The department will begin writing to households outlining the process from the middle of August. Letters will be issued on a "phased basis" over 25 days to ensure the number of customers contacting the call centre can be managed. A "surge" of calls is expected in the five days prior to the closing date for applications.
The call centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, and management will have to provide "appropriate measures" for handling PPS numbers, bank details and other "personal identifiers".
The Department of Social Protection said that call centre operatives would input data on behalf of customers to a "secure web-based application", and that staff would not have access to other sources of information.
"All data in respect of the application process for the Water Conservation Grant will be stored securely by the Department of Social Protection within Ireland. This includes PPS Numbers and bank account details," it added.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Irish Water Company:
Irish Water Ltd. is a water utility company in Ireland. The company was created by the Irish Government through the Water Services Act (2013), which formally created Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis, to provide "safe, clean and affordable water and waste water services" to water users in Ireland. Water and wastewater services were previously provided by local authorities in Ireland.
Published: Friday, April 10, 2015