Fianna Fáil TD for Longford Westmeath, Robert Troy, has called for a full Cost Benefit Analysis to be carried out by the Department of Social Protection on the impact of phasing out cash payment of welfare entitlements from September.
Deputy Troy said phasing out over the counter payments could be “yet another blow to rural Ireland”.
“It seems as if the Department of Social Welfare is at an advanced stage of moving towards phasing out the cash payment of welfare entitlements at Post Offices.
“I would urge Minister Burton to stop and take account of the potential impact of this decision. This could have a devastating impact on rural Ireland. The Irish Postmasters Union says it has the potential to shut 400 Post Offices nationwide.
“As a postmaster myself, I know first-hand how pivotal the post office is to the local community. I would fear that towns and villages all over Longford and Westmeath would die a slow death if post offices were to close.
“If plans by the Department of Social Welfare to phase out the over the counter payments of these entitlements proceeds, post offices will lose a vital part of their income. This is extremely worrying and will be yet another blow to rural Ireland.
“We have already seen rural Garda stations close, small rural schools and bank branches have also been shut and now Post Offices are in real danger of being forced to close as well.
“I would urge Minister Burton to conduct a cost benefit analysis of both the financial and social impact of such a move. The social consequences are extremely important and I hope the Minster is aware of how much local communities depend on the Post Office. Just this week we saw 32,000 people left high and dry after their electronic payments were delayed. In many cases this was money recipients were depending on and it goes to show that you cannot always depend on cashless payments. In any case, many elderly people who receive their social welfare payments do not have access to on-line banking.
“I hope this hasn’t been another decision made behind a desktop in Dublin without due consideration given to the impact on individual communities and I would urge the Minister to take these concerns into account.”