Postmasters have welcomed a Government decision to return to weekly collection of all social welfare payments at Post Offices.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) has received confirmation from the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys that the Department is set to announce the change this week.
The change, which is due to come into effect in late October / early November, will give all Social Welfare recipients the choice to collect any payment either weekly or every two weeks at their Post Office.
Customers can clarify any changes to their collection details with their local Postmaster.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said the Union raised the negative impact two-weekly payments were having on Post Offices, and on business in local communities, and asked the Minister to revert to weekly payments.
“When the IPU met with Minister Humphreys we presented that transactions were down 25%, and that this is in turn was having a stagnating impact on surrounding local businesses. We also highlighted that a return to weekly payments would help many people with their personal budgeting.”
The IPU thanked the Minister and Department Officials for meeting and listening to its concerns – and also thanked the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Chambers Ireland who supported the move. Mr O’Hara said people have been acting responsibly in adhering to public health guidelines in Post Offices.
He added that while this move is positive, major overall difficulty faces the Post Office Network and the broader challenge for Government will be to respond to this.
Last month the IPU launched a major new report commissioned by business advisors Grant Thornton, which recommended an annual Public Service Obligation (PSO) for the Post Office Network of €17million. It warned starkly of the need for action to be taken within months as the Network “faces significant levels of unrestrained closures by the end of 2021”.
The report Review of the economic contribution and financial sustainability of the Irish Post Office Network recommended the PSO model as it said the Network has a funding shortfall, but continues to provide a multi-fold economic and social return to communities – far in excess of the PSO requirement.
The report highlighted that PSO models are not unusual for Post Office Networks and have already been introduced in the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Finland and Poland with the approval of the European Commission.
The IPU today said that it will this week be seeking a response to the report from the Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, who has responsibility for the Post Office Network.
Independent research carried out by RED C in February 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 and 86% want more State services available at their Post Office.
Post Offices are run by Postmasters who are independent providers of the network under contract to An Post. There are currently 899 Postmaster and 45 An Post operated Post Offices in the country.