This Government continues to be committed to maintaining the post office network and for An Post to remain in a position to provide a high quality postal service and maintain a nationwide customer-focused network of post offices in the community. My Department’s support for An Post is equally apparent. We are in the process of renewing the contract for cash payment services with the company for another year. The current agreement allows me, as Minister, to extend the term of the contract on an annual basis up to the end of 2025.
The introduction of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), and the need to ensure payments quickly reached the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their employment as a direct result of public health restrictions, necessitated paying the majority of applicants by direct fund transfer into their bank account (EFT). This has been acknowledged by many stakeholders, groups and individual customers.
When the Government had to introduce public health restrictions in 2020, all those in receipt of Jobseeker payments were given the option of being paid by EFT. Only where jobseekers requested a change of payment method was their payment changed from the post office to EFT. My Department did not recommend a change of payment method nor actively promote such a change among Jobseekers. The process was driven by customer choice.
This change in payment method also reflects a wider societal shift away from cash and is reflective of a natural year-on-year reduction of post office payments on all Departmental schemes. It should also be noted that one in every five Jobseeker payments were paid via EFT prior to the pandemic.
As the country emerges from the worst of the pandemic and PUP scheme recipients are gradually migrating over to Jobseekers’ payments, my officials are reviewing the Department’s payment policy.
I am very conscious that a balance needs to be struck between the requirement to ensure that appropriate financial controls are in place while also considering the views of Social Welfare customers regarding their payment method choice.