OAPs went penniless after PO failure
By Benedict O'ConnorPENSIONERS were left penniless just days before Christmas because of a Post Office computer system failure.Senior citizens queuing to cash their pensions on December 21 were turned away empty-handed when their new automated accounts were rendered inaccessible.
By Benedict O'Connor
PENSIONERS were left penniless just days before Christmas because of a Post Office computer system failure.
Senior citizens queuing to cash their pensions on December 21 were turned away empty-handed when their new automated accounts were rendered inaccessible.
Because of the failure of the new chip and pin card system, which is gradually replacing the pension book scheme, many pensioners were unable to do their Christmas shopping or stock up on food.
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Among those hit by the system failure was the post office in Cavendish, near Sudbury, where subpostmaster Dick Comyn called for the new system to be abolished.
"This is the second time this has happened and it wasn't just here, it was a national problem. The people who still have pension books were able to get their money, but some of the others just went away," he said.
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"I'm not sure if they went without, but they certainly couldn't do what they had planned, whereas with the old simple, book system this could not have happened."
Mr Comyn said there was an emergency number to call in such cases, but the maximum payment available was £20, far below the amounts many people had wished to withdraw.
He added that system was not entirely reliable and there was no way of knowing how much money someone was due without the computer system working.
Furthermore, the Cavendish post office was also subsequently affected by the timer on the safe being incorrectly programmed, which meant it could not be opened on New Year's Eve.
He said: "It's all very well for the next generation of pensioners who are used to using cash machines and bank cards, but many of the current generation are not used to it.
"I would like to see a return to the pension book system, where the amount people have is written down and it does not rely upon a computer that cannot be relied upon."
Mr Comyn – who backed the East Anglian Daily Times' Save Our Post Offices petition, which campaigned to save over-the-counter payments of pensions and benefits from being phased out – said he felt the system failure illustrated how people could be denied their individual liberty through no fault of their own.
A spokesman for the Post Office said: "We did have some intermittent problems that were resolved and I am not aware that there were any major problems.
"There is also an emergency payment system and people were able to withdraw their money from other branches. It was very, very few offices that were affected and it was only for a few hours."