HC Deb 26 March 2003 vol 402 cc289-90W
Mr. Ruffley

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received from organisations representing blind and partially sighted people about the accessibility of PIN Pads used to withdraw benefits in cash in post offices; and if he will make a statement. [104816]

Malcolm Wicks

There is no question of blind, partially sighted or disabled people not being able to access their money after the move to Direct Payment. We are committed to ensuring that all people have reasonable access to their benefits and pensions and there will be a number of options available.

My Officials regularly meet with a number of representatives from Specific Interest Groups, including the RNIB, RNID and Disability Alliance to discuss all issues surrounding Direct Payment. We are aware of the concerns that have been raised with the Post Office about the design and accessibility of the post offices' PIN pads.

The Post Office has agreed that they need to make the PIN pad more accessible and user friendly. They will also be looking at other ways of accessing the Post Office card account that does not involve using a PIN pad. The Post Office are taking action to address the concerns raised and have invited RNIB and other disability groups to work with them. It is clear these issues have been recognised by Post Office Ltd. and are being taken seriously.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many benefit recipients who have been sent letters asking them how they wish to receive benefits following the switch to automated credit transfer have opted for payment by(a) an existing account, (b) a Post Office card account, (c) a basic bank account and (d) the exceptions service; [104579]

(2) how many benefit recipients have been sent letters asking them how they wish to receive their benefits following the switch to automated credit transfer, broken down by benefit. [104581]

Malcolm Wicks

The information is not available in the format requested.

Information that is available shows that as at 7 March 2003 1,369,229 customer invitation letters had been issued. This is made up of 1,236,473 Child Benefit customers, 107,790 Veterans Agency customers and 24,966 Pensions customers. From the invitation letters issued over 545,000 customers have responded to our letters and opted for payment into a bank or building society account and over 106,000 customers have responded with a request for a Post Office card account.