Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (345)

Seán Crowe

Question:

345. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the reinstatement of physically signing on for social protection payments such as pensions at a time of such high transmission rates of Covid-19; her views on whether this presents an unnecessarily high risk particularly to older claimants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2510/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

Signing for a cash payments in post offices is performed by means of an electronic signing pad.

Disabling the signature pads was one of a number of temporary measures introduced in March 2020 to assist in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

In agreement with my Department, An Post introduced fixed hand sanitiser units in all post offices and reactivated the signing pads in the post office network. This allows customers to sanitise their hands both before and after using the electronic signing pad.

Other measures to help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 have been introduced by An Post with the co-operation of my Department. The period of time in which cash payments have to be collected at post offices has been extended. This is to facilitate those who are in a position to collect a number of payments together on a less frequent basis. For State Pensions, that period is 90 days. In addition, more flexibility has been introduced to the rules around nominating an agent to collect social welfare payments at a post office on someone else’s behalf.

Also, for the duration of the pandemic, alternative payment arrangements, such as the option to have one’s payment made directly into a current account by electronic fund transfer (EFT), are accommodated at the request of a customer to the Department. This allows for the payment to be made directly into a current account in any financial institution, whether that be with An Post, a bank or a credit union.