Postmasters today are urging for a full return to weekly collection of all social protection payments
Postmasters today are urging for a full return to weekly collection of all social protection payments at Post Offices.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) said that these transactions must return urgently to help people manage their finances – and to keep struggling Post Offices open in communities.
The call was also supported by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP).
Collection of all social protection payments at Post Offices were reduced from weekly to every two weeks during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of the lockdown measures.
The IPU welcomed a move by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to reintroduce some payments on a weekly basis from August 17th.
However, the IPU called for all payments to be restored to weekly during August and also for social protection customers to return to using their Post Office on a weekly basis.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said there is ongoing confusion amongst customers in relation to their date of payment and customers are having difficulty in managing their finances over the extended two week period.
“Postmasters and An Post worked together during the pandemic to ensure public safety while maintaining a core service. However, this has caused difficulty for some people in managing their finances – and there has been a significant reduction in people coming into their Post Office.
“Welfare payments account for 30% of all transactions in Post Offices and bring a further estimated 20% in spin off business which people carry out when onsite, such as paying utility bills or managing cash.
“The IPU is appealing to the Department to make all payments weekly for citizens who benefit from this facility and to drive a return of business at Post Offices.”
SVP National President Kieran Stafford said volunteers have found that many families are finding it extremely difficult to adjust to the fortnightly payments from the Department of Social Protection.
“For those on social welfare payments careful budgeting is essential and the change in payment dates has been extremely disrupting. While SVP welcomes the reintroduction of some payments on a weekly basis, we urge the Department to extend this to all social welfare payments.
“All of those in receipt of such payments in local communities should have the widest choice possible on where their payments are credited or collected.”
IPU President Seán Martin said Post Offices face a very difficult future and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more difficult.
“Business at Post Offices is reducing by approximately 6-7% per annum. Two thirds of Post Offices are currently receiving transformation payments, following a new contract in 2018. However, these payments end in 2021, which will tip many already struggling Offices to the brink of viability. However, the pandemic has accelerated these challenges into this year.”
“The new Government urgently needs to recognise the social and economic role of Post Offices and place a commercial value on this that can sustain and keep the Network open. Communities also need to come back into the Post Office and use their service in order to keep it viable,” he said.
Mr. Martin thanked the public for its support during the pandemic in observing social distancing and asked people to continue with recommended public health advice when visiting Post Offices.
Independent research carried out by RED C in February (before the pandemic) found that:
- 91% said their Post Office provided a valuable service to the local community;
- 86% support the Government providing financial support to keep their Post Office open;
- 86% want more State services available at their Post Office.
There are 897 postmasters and 45 An Post operated Post Offices in the country.