Why are there so many PPS Numbers?

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The PPS Number is the individual’s unique reference number for all dealings with Government Departments and public bodies.  This covers its use for DSP purposes as well as use by other agencies (i.e. PPS Numbers are not issued solely for DSP purposes). Section 262 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides the basis for the allocation, use and sharing of the PPS No.

PPS Numbers are issued following checks on an individual’s identity. The checks vary depending on the type of individual concerned – we accept notification via the General Register Office of births but for the last number of years (since 2000) insist on a face to face interview before issuing a PPS number to a resident of working age.

There has been a lot of comment recently about the fact that the numbers issued by DSP differ substantially from the current national population. As these numbers reflect quite different things, they should differ.

There are some 7.5m records on the DSP central database (‘Customer Object’), each identified by a PPS number. These records are for all PPS numbers ever issued. As well as all individuals currently resident in the State who have been issued with a PPS number, the figure also includes any individual who:

  • since 1979, required a PPS Number and has died,
  • has been resident in the State but has subsequently left the jurisdiction (including those born in the State since 1971) or
  • has not been resident in the State but requires a PPS Number to do business with the State. For instance, the Revenue Commissioners have a requirement that all beneficiaries of Irish estates should have a PPS Number.

The Department uses the number to identify an individual’s PRSI contributions while they are working in the state. This means that, even after they have left the state, the number allocated to them remains valid. The PRSI contribution information will be relevant to calculating pension entitlements in other jurisdictions as well as this one.

It’s important to note that possession of a number, in itself, does not convey any entitlement. While it can make identifying a person easier for both the individual and the agency, checks on identity and meeting the qualifying conditions for any scheme must be carried out.

The Department takes its stewardship of the individual’s data very seriously. Any database which has a large amount of data collected throughout its life based on different business rules is likely to contain incomplete and incorrect data. The Department has processes in place to monitor, correct and enhance the data that we hold. Most importantly, we also continue to enhance the processes associated with collecting the data in the first place.

Last modified:04/10/2011

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