Deputy Tom Fleming welcomed the indications from Tánaiste & Minister for Social Protection, Ms. Joan Burton that she is finally abandoning the initiative by her department which recently issued notices to Social Welfare recipients encouraging them to have payments made directly to their Bank accounts instead of through their local Post Office.
Initially, on 31st March Minister Burton in reply to Dáil Question by Deputy Fleming asking her to cease the issuing of letters urging Social Welfare recipients to utilise Banks and other institutions other that Post Offices she replied her Department was not issuing any further letters as of that date.
But subsequently, in the first week of June, her Department resumed issuing the same notices encouraging Social Welfare benefits to be prioritised by recipients for direct payments into Bank accounts.
Deputy Fleming in addressing Postal Services Bill in the Dáil on the 11th June urged Alex White, Minister for Communications to directly intervene to the cabinet table with his party leader and Tánaiste Minister Joan Burton to withdraw these latest letters.
Deputy Fleming issued further written Dáil Questions on the issue again last week requesting the reversal and abandonment of this strategy.
Deputy Fleming said that the policy is having a negative effect on the Post Office network and he requested that as of this week the Post Offices will be re-prioritised as the main facility for all Social Welfare financial transactions.
To the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection:
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if her Department will cease contacting and encouraging Social Welfare recipients to utilise banks rather that post offices for direct electronic transfer of their payments as this exercise is detrimental to the post office network viability and in direct conflict with aspiration regarding post offices in Programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Tom Fleming.
Reply by Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D
The letters recently issued by my department to recipients of State Pension Contributory and Non Contributory were part of a very small trial to determine the best means of communicating with people about their payment options.
Customers were asked to consider whether they would like to consider receiving their payment directly into an account in a bank, building society, certain credit union accounts or An Post. Customer engagement was entirely voluntary with no negative consequences for customers who chose not to respond or engage.
All existing payment options remain in place as heretofore. The department has no plans to issue further letters at this stage. The department will continue to offer its clients in receipt of state pension the choice of receiving their payment at the Post Office or electronically.
At present six out of every 10 pensioners are paid directly into an account. It is not proposed to limit the freedom of these clients to amend their payment arrangements if they so wish. Existing payment options will continue to remain in place in order to reflect different client circumstances and needs.