Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
991. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on the difficulties faced by persons in receipt of social welfare payments who do not have access to debit or credit cards and who are being refused service at some retail outlets as a result of Covid-19 measures which see some outlets refusing cash; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10837/20]
1021. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to deal with the situation of persons on low incomes who have no debit or credit card facilities and use cash only in the Covid-19 crisis in view of the fact many retailers are refusing to accept cash payment; if those on social protection payments will be facilitated with some form of access to cashless methods without incurring the costs associated with such banking facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11487/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 991 and 1021 together.
My Department is taking all necessary measures, in line with the advice of the Department of Health, the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), to respond to the significant challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to comply with social distancing requirements, the Department has relaxed the rules around payment arrangements. The option to have one’s social welfare payment made directly into a bank account by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) is now available on the request of the customer.
Social Welfare payments made directly into customer accounts can be paid into any financial institution, whether they are with An Post, commercial high street banks, credit unions or digital only banks. Within these financial institutions, there are a range of account options which charge varying fees. Every person receiving a Social Welfare payment by EFT has the right to choose which financial institution they wish to use to receive their payment.
In addition, the European Union (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016 stipulate that any consumer who is legally resident in the European Union and who does not already have a payment account with a credit institution in the State has the right to open and use a payment account with basic features. These include a stipulation that such accounts be offered free of charge for a period of not less than 12 months.