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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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ID for the homeless

May 18 2009
There are concerns that ID cards could give further powers to the police to stop homeless people for no good reason The debate on the introduction of compulsory identity cards in the UK is still opened, but the ID Card Act, which was approved in 2006, means that people who apply for a UK passport from 2009 onwards will be issued a joint immigration and ID card. While is not clear how the multibillion pound scheme could affect the life of rough sleepers, authorities are currently evaluating how to issue ID cards to the country's homeless. In July, Lib Dem MP Nick Clegg asked Home Secretary Jacqui Smith what provision she planned to make for homeless people to register for a national identity card. Ms Smith responded that arrangements had yet to be made on how it will be possible for homeless people to register for a national identity card, but that the Home Office intended to draw on the experience of other departments, such as the NHS, which already provide services to homeless people. However, it seems unlikely that the provision will immediately affect the life of those with no fixed abode. A Home Office spokesperson told The Pavement: "Unless a person who is homeless applies for one of these documents, they will not initially need to get an identity card. The Government does intend that it will eventually become compulsory for everyone to obtain an identity card, but this would require additional primary legislation." The Home Office maintains that the National Identity Scheme has an "underlying benefit" for all individuals, as it will provide a more secure way to prove and protect a person's identity. The advantage for the homeless would be, for instance, in obtaining benefits, employment or housing, since it will be easier to prove one's identity. However, there are concerns that ID cards could give further powers to the police to stop people and inquire about their identity with no specific reason, amid increasingly frequent reports by some readers of being CRO-checked. However, the Home Office spokesperson said: "The introduction of the identity card did not introduce any new police powers to request identification." The scheme will use biometric technology, meaning that important biological data such as fingerprints will be used to secure people's identity. The Home Office also added that as the scheme is eventually intended to be compulsory for all people legally resident in the UK, and foreign nationals will be issued ID cards as well.