Post Offices: Rural Areas

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy written question – answered on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to promote access to, and services provided by, rural post offices; and wwhether they will provide an update on the status of the Post Office Card Account.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Government committed in its 2017 manifesto to safeguard the Post Office network and protect existing rural services, recognising the important role post offices play in serving their communities. The Government promotes access to rural post offices by setting accessibility criteria which the Post Office must meet. This ensures that in rural areas over 95% of people are within 3 miles of their nearest post office service. In remote and rural areas where it is difficult to deliver services to consumers via a permanent site, Post Office Limited use outreach services, such as a mobile van, or a village hall. These offer the same products and services as bricks-and-mortar branches.

In recent years the Government has provided over £2bn investment into the Post Office which has seen over 7700 branches modernised, many thousands in rural areas. Having a modern accessible network enables the Post Office to secure and deliver services for customers, such as banking, bill payment and mails services, across the whole network, including rural areas, where in many cases the post office is the last shop in the village.

The contract for the Post Office Card Account (POca) is a commercial matter for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Post Office Limited (POL). The contract will come to an end on 30 November 2021. DWP is working with Post Office Limited (POL) to prepare POca users for this by undertaking a project to move significant volumes of existing POca service users onto a mainstream bank account. Those POca customers who transition to a mainstream account will still be able to access their pension and benefit payments via the post office.

For claimants who are unable to open a mainstream account ahead of this date, DWP will implement an alternative payment service that allows users to obtain cash payments whatever their location before the end of the contract.

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