July 14th 2015.
Postmasters across the country have returned thousands of new Social Protection forms to Minister Joan Burton’s Department in protest against their usage.
In a coordinated move by Postmasters, recently revised Social Protection forms were posted back to the Department of Social Protection – from all corners of the country yesterday – and were due to arrive at the doors of the Department today.
Members of the Union’s Executive returned their forms to the Department in person this morning.
Frustration emerged last month when Minister Burton’s Department issued new Social Protection forms which recommended that people receive their payments by direct debit to a bank account, instead of using the Post Office.
The move was received angrily by Postmasters, and a large number of politicians, who accused the Government of trying to close down the Post Office network and of being at odds with the Bobby Kerr led Post Office Business Development Group, which was set up to develop Post Office business.
After strong public outcry, Minister Burton conceded that the forms were not appropriate and issued a statement saying that that new forms would be developed.
For the past month Postmasters have been seeking a meeting with the Minister and to date no clarity has been provided on when the new forms will be available, or what changes they will include.
Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) General Secretary Ned O’Hara said there is a lot of frustration among on the ground and a view that Government policy is to hand core Post Office business over to the commercial banks.
“There is a view among Postmasters that, by recommending Social Protection payments through the banks, Government policy is in effect closing down the Post Office Network. We want the Tánaiste to meet with us and hear our concerns and solutions.”
IPU President Paddy McCann said that Social Protection payments account for 30% of Post Offices business and its spin off value is as high as 50%.
“Transferring the largest element of Post Office business to the banks will shut down the Network and remove a core piece of social infrastructure from communities across Ireland.
“There is huge support in all constituencies for the development of Post Offices as hubs for the delivery of core State and commercial services. Many people want to use the Post Office and do not want to pay fees to the commercial banks.”
In keeping with their contractual duties Postmasters have not returned all of the forms and have kept a number available. However, they are expecting that new forms will be available very shortly and that the Department of Social Protection will revise its policy and encourage Post Office usage.
Postmasters recently launched two Community and Post Office General Election candidates on the platform of greater government support for and investment in communities.
Galway Postmistress Seona O’Fegan announced her campaign to run in Galway West last month while Cabra Postmaster Andrew Kelly launched his campaign in Dublin Central last week.
Further Community and Post Office candidates will be announced in September and it is expected that eight candidates will run in total.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.