Proposed Changes in Benefit Payment System 2003

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2002 Retired Members' Conference
18 June 2002
Carried as Amended

During 2003, no exact date at present, the Benefits Agency is proposing to cease the payment of all state benefits, including benefits to pensioners, via the present weekly order book system. Instead, they intend to make payments to clients on a four week basis, direct into a bank account, thus removing yet another freedom of choice for pensioners.

This raises several issues that will impact in particular on the pensioner population:

1)Many pensioners rely on the regular weekly payment and are used to budgeting on a weekly basis;

2)Some pensioners either do not have, or want a bank account, and the banking facilities are not readily available to them due to many branch closures over the last few years, especially in rural areas. This incurs them in further unnecessary expenses in attending at the bank. Many refuse to use, or are in abject fear of cash machines or even using switch cards, and so on;

3)The abolition of weekly payments will be yet another nail in the coffin of the local sub post offices, which continue to close at an alarming rate, despite the alleged steps taken by the Government to halt the trend;

4)Pensioners in rural areas are already experiencing problems on having to rely on local traders to cash cheques for them, usually with a charge involved which the pensioner can ill afford. Proposals in March 2002 to fit all post offices with a cash machine facility but then to charge £1.50 for every transaction, will do nothing to alleviate the additional financial burden on the individual;

5)If, as seems the case, these proposals are to be implemented, what steps will be taken to ensure that no hardship is suffered by those on benefits during the implementation period, namely many will be without monies as benefits paid by the banking system are four weekly in arrears and to ensure that pensions are increased to take account of any transaction charges which are being encountered now or may be in the future.

We call upon Conference to ask the National Executive Council, Affiliated Political Fund and other appropriate organisations to take these concerns forward to the Government, seeking to maintain the present payment options available, if not as an overall policy, then with special considerations towards those currently receiving benefits on a cash weekly basis to continue to do so if they wish.