Postmasters angry as forms urge welfare recipients to use banks
The Department of Social Protection is facing a backlash from postmasters after it sent out thousands of application forms urging customers to use financial institutions as a means of receiving State benefits.
The forms, which allow customers to apply for the likes of the State pension and the Household Benefits Package, say customers should use banks over post offices where possible.
"The department recommends direct payments to your current, deposit or savings account in a financial institution. This is the best payment option for you as you can receive your payment at a time and place that suits you," the letter states.
Postmasters have reacted furiously to the new application forms, which are considerably different to previous forms issued to welfare customers.
The forms were sent in batches to hundreds of postmasters across the country in recent days. In a message to postmasters, the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) said the development could prove detrimental to the post office network and that the forms clearly "relegate" the post office.
IPU president Paddy McCann said the issue would be raised with ministers as well as entrepreneur Bobby Kerr, who is leading an inter-departmental review into the future of post offices.
"This is a serious development with the potential to close your post office," wrote Mr McCann.
But the department said it was committed to the future of the post office network.
"The option to be paid at the post office remains on the forms and customers are free to opt to receive their payment at the post office if they wish and nothing has changed in this regard."
Just last month, the department agreed to stop sending out letters to welfare customers encouraging them to use banks.