Work and Pensions written question – answered on 7th April 2005.

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Photo of John Austin John Austin Labour, Erith and Thamesmead

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) what action he proposes to take regarding benefits and direct payments being claimed by carers on behalf of claimants with particular reference to issues raised with the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr.Pond) on BBC Radio 4 on 12 March;

(2) what representations he has received concerning difficulties faced by authorised third parties in cashing giro cheques at post offices on behalf of claimants; what discussions he has had with (a) the Post Office and (b) Alliance and Leicester on the issues; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

Cheque payments are designed for the small number of people who we cannot pay directly into an account. We settled on this solution following extensive consultation with customer representative groups. The cheque provides the facility for a third party (including a carer) to cash cheques under £450 on the customer's behalf at a Post Office and this facility has worked successfully for many years.

We need to strike a balance between a customer's right to access their benefit or pension and the need to prevent the cheque being cashed by an unauthorised person without the customer's knowledge. For this reason the Post Office requires the third party presenting the cheque for encashment to produce evidence of both their own and the customer's identity.

There is currently a wide range of forms of identification, which are acceptable to the Post Office to enable a carer or other person to cash a cheque on a customer's behalf. These are listed on the reverse of the cheque. In addition other forms of identification may be accepted at the discretion of the postmaster.

Officials have obtained a report from Post Office Ltd. about the circumstances of the case raised with me on BBC Radio 4 on 12 March 2004. Neither the Department nor Post Office Ltd. have seen any evidence to suggest that there are widespread difficulties being faced by authorised third parties cashing cheques on behalf of customers. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and make improvements to the process if necessary.

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