Benefits Payment Arrangements

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 30 September 2002.

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Photo of Mark Robinson Mark Robinson DUP 3:45, 30 September 2002

9. asked the Minister for Social Development what steps are being taken to ensure that claimants who do not wish to open a bank/building society account in order to receive pension and benefit payments, will, after April 2003, retain the option of receiving such payments directly from a Post Office.

(AQO 182/02)

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

Payment by credit transfer is being introduced to modernise the way benefits are paid, to reduce social and financial exclusion by giving access to basic bank accounts, and to reduce the fraud and abuse associated with the current paper methods of payment.

Negotiations are proceeding between the banks and the Post Office to ensure that people who open basic bank accounts will be able to access those through the Post Office. Thus it is my clear policy that people in Northern Ireland will be able to continue to collect their benefits at post offices.

(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair)

Photo of Mark Robinson Mark Robinson DUP 4:00, 30 September 2002

Will the Minister give an assurance that any switchover will not be compulsory?

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

I assure the Member that people can collect their benefits in cash from the Post Office if they so wish. The purpose of the reforms is to tackle social and financial exclusion and to reduce fraud and abuse. Clearly, provision must be made for those who cannot or do not wish to avail of that system. There is no question of people being forced to use it, and people will still be able to receive their money weekly. They will not have to make different financial arrangements for their own accounting purposes.

Photo of P J Bradley P J Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Has the Minister had discussions with Consignia, or has he plans to meet the company regarding the retention of services in rural areas to ensure that residents in those areas continue to have a service equal to that available to urban residents?

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Time is up.

Motion made:

That the Assembly do now adjourn.— [Madam Deputy Speaker.]