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Benefit Payments (Post Office)

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

12. What plans he has to introduce the payment of pensions and benefits and begin accepting applications for universal credit through the Post Office. (901079)

I assure my hon. Friend that all Department for Work and Pensions benefits and entitlements, including universal credit, are normally paid by direct payment into a mainstream bank account, the vast majority of which can now be accessed over the counter at post office branches.

Millions of people have chosen to collect their pensions and benefits at a post office through a Post Office card account, but the contract is due to expire in 16 months’ time. Will the Government end the uncertainty and announce that POCA will continue after April 2015 with, I hope, improved banking facilities?

We are in active discussions with Post Office Ltd and our colleagues at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Indeed, I am meeting ministerial colleagues later this afternoon to discuss that issue. I can assure my hon. Friend that I share his commitment to the post office network.

How long does the Minister anticipate that post offices will have to wait before they are in a position to take applications for universal credit?

Just to be clear, people can receive universal credit into an account accessible at a post office already. Universal credit obviously has an online application process, so if there is access to the internet at local post offices, that can be done already.