Hundreds of thousands of retirees still rely on drawing their pension cash in person – but the Post Office has contacted just 3pc of them to offer them an alternative delivery service.
This is despite the Government’s advice for everyone over the age of 70 to significantly limit face-to-face interaction, meaning most have self-isolated and are not leaving their homes.
However, many are still risking their health by going to collect their money: there has only been a 25pc decrease in withdrawals from Post Office Card Accounts in branches during the pandemic.
Most pension payments are made directly into bank accounts via “automated credit transfer” but there are 780,000 pensioners and other benefit recipients who normally get cash at their post office via a Post Office Card Account. Of these, only 27,000 have been given the option of a cash delivery service, pensions minister Guy Opperman admitted in a parliamentary written statement.
The Department for Work and Pensions and the Post Office have been working with the National Shielding Service to make contact with specific customers who are shielding because of the infection risk they face by leaving their homes.
But only those considered to be extremely vulnerable have been identified and offered the alternative payment plan.
Sir Steve Webb, partner at LCP, a pensions consultancy, said it is worrying that so few people have been contacted when many will have stopped drawing their pension for fear of leaving the house.
The former pensions minister said: “There must be a concern that some pensioners feel they have no choice but to break shielding rules in order to get cash from a post office, or that others are simply going without.”
With no alternatives offered to them, many will either have to eke out their cash or give their card and Pin to someone else, he warned.
In response to Sir Steve’s comments, a spokesman at the DWP said it was an “unfair” and “inaccurate” interpretation of the Government’s action to support the most vulnerable.
The DWP said: “We’ve contacted tens of thousands of pensioners who have no alternative payment arrangements in place, and a range of other payment options already exist for hundreds of thousands of Post Office card account holders.”
When notified by the DWP that someone would like this service, the Post Office will ensure cash is sent to their homes using Royal Mail Special Delivery that arrives by 9pm the following day. The service is only available in England at the moment.