For immediate use: 16 November 2017
DWP accused of “bullying and misleading” pensioners over the way they access their state pensions
Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “bullying and misleading” around 1.3 million pensioners over the way their state pensions are paid.
The NPC has seen the standard letter sent by the DWP to over 1 million Post Office Card Account (POCA) holders, which effectively tells them they can no longer have their state pension paid in this way, and should instead use a bank, building society or credit union account.
The extract from the letter reads as follows:
We are paying your pension into a Post Office Card Account. We are now asking that you use a bank, building society or credit union account. Most people use one of these accounts.
However, NPC believes the move is premature, given that the contract for the POCA lasts until 2021 and can be extended further to 2024 if the government wishes.
The NPC also points to a House of Commons Library Briefing Paper dated 27 October 2017 which states: “People have the option of payment into a POCA until at least 2021” and a House of Commons statement of 16 December 2014 made by the then pensions’ minister, Steve Webb in which he said: “This seven-year contract with Post Office Ltd for the Post Office card account represents good value to taxpayers and security for sub-postmasters, protects local services and ensures that we continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable users.”
Jan Shortt (double t), NPC general secretary said: “This is a really deceitful tactic by the DWP, that looks like it’s trying to bully and mislead pensioners into closing down their Post Office Card accounts, long before they need to. It does not say that the POCA is still operating until 2021, and neither does it give the individual the choice of retaining their POCA if they so wish. This certainly looks like an underhand tactic, aimed at closing down the POCA before its time – and in the process, the DWP are causing distress and confusion among large numbers of older people. The letter therefore needs to be withdrawn as a matter of urgency to avoid further problems.”
Notes for Editors
1. The Post Office Card Account (POCA) provides a basic payment service for people who are without a traditional bank account so that they may receive their benefits, pensions, allowances and tax credits. People with a POCA can collect payments and check their balance either over a post office counter or by using one of a network of almost 2,500 Post Office ATMs spread across the UK network. Such accounts can be opened without a credit check, which means, crucially, that they can be accessed without difficulty by people with a poor credit history. The POCA is also invaluable for those people who rely on someone else to collect their money for them, for example because of a disability. Just over half of POCA users are pensioners, including a significant number over the age of 80.