Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Benefit delivery failures unacceptable

24 August, 2004

Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast and spokesperson on Poverty Kathy Stanton has stated that the current mechanisms for the delivering of benefits employed by the Post Office and DHSS are unacceptable and need root and branch surgery in order to alleviate the problems faced by the most vulnerable sections of our community when using the current system. This follows the collapse of the Post Office's electronic system on Monday of this week preventing people from accessing their benefits.

Speaking today Ms Stanton said:

"Countless constituents in north Belfast alone are approaching my office for advice on this issue. If this is any indication of the scale of problems being encountered across the north it serves to highlight starkly that something is drastically wrong with the current mechanisms employed by the Post Office and DHSS when delivering benefit payments to customers. This clearly indicates that root and branch surgery is required.

"The existing system of pressing people to open accounts for their benefits is flawed and needs reassessed. Too many people are not being informed that there is an option where benefits can be received in the form of a Giro cheque, an option that may find preferable.

"The current over reliance on the Post Office to operate the system where people avail of their money electronically only leads to difficulties, as was the case this week when the electronic system failed and people could not access their much needed money. To compound the problems there was no back up system to deal with such a crisis.

"What needs employed are clear mechanisms of accountability and a common sense approach where those who are most vulnerable including pensioners and single parent or low income families can have immediate access to their benefits. This ultimately means urgently addressing the serious flaws in the current system through training of staff and backup procedures being examined and utilized with immediate effect." ENDS

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