15 May 2016.
Postmasters have called for a ‘freeze’ on migration of Social Protection Payments to electronic payment until new services and a plan on the future of Post Offices is in place.
At their Annual Conference in Athlone Postmasters called on the new Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to put a halt to the migration of payments to Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to the banks and to promote the Post Office Network as the provider of choice for social protection payments.
IPU General Treasurer and South East spokesperson Seán Martin said a number of processes are in place to renew and develop Post Office business, but once a social protection recipient moves from cash payment to EFT, their custom is lost forever to the Post Office including important spin off business.
“An Post is 100% State owned, so it makes no sense for the Department of Social Protection to hand its own business over to private banks. This Government needs to back its own Post Office Network. An Post is currently developing a Post Office based ePayment account, which expected to come into effect this year. This will facilitate electronic payment for those who choose it, while keeping users as Post Office customers.
“The IPU, An Post and Government are currently involved in two Working Groups, one to develop a Five Year Strategy for the Network and a second to pilot Service Hub Post Offices in rural areas (expanded one-stop-shops for Government services).
“We should await the roll out of the ePayment service and outcomes of these Working Groups before any other business migrates to the banks. When these new offerings, and services, are in place the Post Office will be an enhanced and attractive option for more of the public.
“The new Government has committed in the Programme for Government to encouraging Post Office usage. Postmasters’ message is clear, the single most important step government can take to is to halt migration of welfare payments business to the banks,” he said.
Mr. Martin was speaking as Postmasters held their 94th Annual Conference in Athlone this weekend.
IPU President Paddy McCann said Social Protection payments account directly for 30% of Post Office business and an estimated 50% including spin off transactions.
“The last Government pursued a policy of proactively trying to migrate Post Office business to bank EFT. In doing so they also transferred the cost of welfare payments to the citizen.
“The new Government has committed itself to taking a different approach. Postmasters are calling on Minister Leo Varadkar to put this commitment into effect by maintaining all current cash transaction customers and encouraging all new recipients to use the Post Office as their provider of choice.”
Earlier in the weekend Postmasters had called for the Bobby Kerr led Five Year Strategy, the piloting of ‘Service Hub’ Post Offices and Motor Tax payments to be readied for delivery within the first 100 days of the new Government.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications (086) 317 9731 / firstname.lastname@example.org