Low-paid snub offer of free current accounts, with just 155 signing up
A PLAN to provide free bank accounts for those on low incomes has been labelled a flop after only a tiny number were opened.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB were told to provide basic accounts for the "unbanked" as part of their bailout by taxpayers.
But only 155 accounts have been opened in the past eight months during a pilot project in Tallaght, Tullamore and New Ross, the Irish Independent has learned.
Consumers Association chairman Michael Kilcoyne said the pilot scheme, which finishes this month, was a flop.
"People don't want anything to do with banks given what has gone on," he said.
Launched last July, the idea was to encourage the one in five people who do not have a bank account to open one.
Around 17pc of adults have no account, one of the highest levels in the EU.
The three banks were ordered to put in place no-fees current accounts for those with low incomes as part of the bank bailout in 2008.
Irish Banking Federation spokesman Felix O'Regan said the fault for the poor take-up of the scheme did not lie with the banks.
"The banks have done all that was asked of them in the pilot project, but just 155 accounts were opened," he said.
Currently half of all social welfare payments are collected from post offices.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection said it was moving to make all payments electronic.
"In relation to paying social welfare entitlements in cash, the current contract with An Post expires at the end of 2013," she said.