Benefit claimants’ concern on ‘advice’ to use banks, says Sinn Fein

Cllr Liam Mackle
Cllr Liam Mackle

People on benefits can still use Post Office accounts despite letters ‘advising’ them to change to bank accounts, say Sinn Fein.

Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd revealed that many constituents in Lurgan, Portadown and Craigavon have voiced concern after receiving letters asking them to move to banks.

John O'Dowd MLA. INLM4710-629con

John O'Dowd MLA. INLM4710-629con

And Sinn Fein Councillor Liam Mackle said many locals who rely on benefits were very concerned as they they were used to using their local Post Office.

Mr O’Dowd said: “A lot of people on benefits have recently received letters ‘advising’ them to change from post office accounts to bank accounts.

“This has been led by the Department of Work and Pensions in England who are responsible for making payments to about 60,000 people across the north,” he said.

Councillor Mackle continued: “This has caused a lot of concern for people in areas like Kilwilke where the post office account works well because of the close proximity of the local post office.

“The letters from Department of Work and Pensions state that they ‘expect’ claimants to change to a bank account but many claimants are concerned that if they don’t change they will lose benefits.

“I have checked with Department of Work and Pensions and they are not demanding that people change and they cannot compel claimants to change.

“They say they are doing it because a bank account has more options than a post office account.

“However to put claimants minds at ease if they prefer to stay with the post office account then that is fine.

“It will not impact on their benefits,” said Cllr Mackle.