Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 06 February, 2007
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Dr. Cowley Dr. Cowley
Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department is operating a policy of assisting in the closure of rural post offices in view of the changes of allowance payments to persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3617/07]
Dr. Cowley Dr. Cowley
Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason he has changed the payment method of allowances to widows and widowers from book format to swipe card format thus reducing the collections time of the allowance from three weeks to five days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3620/07]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 391 together.
It is Government policy to maintain a viable network of post offices throughout the country and my Department has no policy of assisting in the closure of offices. In 2006 approximately 39  million payments were issued to social welfare customers through post offices at a cost of €48 million.
My objective is to ensure that a wide choice of payment options is available to customers of my Department and that service is continually improved by providing access to an increasing range of payment services. Customers opt for a particular payment method having regard to their own circumstances. Currently 52% of overall customers have chosen to receive payment through their local post office, 9% are paid by cheque through the postal system and 39% have chosen to be paid electronically to their bank or building society account.
At the end of 2006 a total of 851 customers were in receipt of Widow & Widowers One Parent Family payment. Of these, 194 were paid by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) to an account in a financial institution, 580 were paid by book at a local Post Office and the remaining 77 customers were paid by Electronic Information Transfer (EIT) using their Social Services Card at the local Post Office.
All other Lone Parent customers are paid by electronic or manual postdraft and my Department initiated the transfer from book format to electronic payment methods for Widow & Widowers One Parent Family customers with effect from 16th February 2007. These customers have in the main opted for electronic payment by EFT at the Post Office.
Payments made to Widows and Widowers One Parent Families by EIT are held at the Post Office and are available for collection for 12 days from the due date. Where a payment is not collected on time and has been returned to the Department, replacement payment is made by cheque to the person’s home address where there is a valid reason for non-collection.
An added feature of this payment method is that a person can also avail of a Household Budgeting facility. This is a facility provided by An Post whereby persons being paid by EIT can make arrangements with An Post to pay a regular amount towards various household bills by direct deduction from their weekly payment.
I know that An Post is conscious of the need to modernize payment systems. Recent and ongoing development will enable An Post to respond to changes and innovation in the money transmission market so that it can maintain its position as a leading player in this area of commercial activity and thus ensure a viable network of post offices throughout the country.
An Post and my Department have been partners in the delivery of social welfare payments since the foundation of the State and there is no reason why this cannot continue, albeit in a changing payments environment.
Dáil Éireann 630 Written Answers. Social Welfare Benefits.