Pioneering postmistress up for top award
A TRAILBLAZING postmistress from Suffolk could win a national award after pioneering a scheme to provide post office services to people's homes.Susan Howarth is offering the service to villages from her base in Aldeburgh High Street and now the Post Office is looking for other postmasters nationally to roll out the service.
A TRAILBLAZING postmistress from Suffolk could win a national award after pioneering a scheme to provide post office services to people's homes.
Susan Howarth is offering the service to villages from her base in Aldeburgh High Street and now the Post Office is looking for other postmasters nationally to roll out the service.
She is a top ten finalist in a Special Award category, which recognises innovation in bringing services to communities, in the 2006 Best Post Office Awards. The final is held in London on November 16.
She has finished a 12-month pilot scheme providing post office services to villages but the Post Office is so impressed it wants her to continue. She covers 300 miles a week and is paid mileage and for her time.
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The service is offered to residents in Tunstall, Kettleburgh, Brandeston, Campsea Ashe, Earl Soham, Middleton and Friston.
Ms Howarth also manages the post office branch in Saxmundham, organises a service on five mornings a week from the village store in Snape and she provides post office services at a coffee morning ''drop in'' in the village hall in Kelsale.
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Villagers put in a request and then Ms Howarth goes to see them. She takes a mobile cash machine to take card payments and she can offer a wide range of services including more than 70 currencies, the payment of bills, cashing of cheques and the purchase of any item she holds in her post office.
The handling of tax discs, postal redirection forms, the new European health card forms and other services are undertaken by Ms Howarth and she sells stamps and takes away items for posting.
Ms Howarth, of Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, said: ''Nobody has done this before and what is so unusual is that I have seven villages on a home-service scheme.
''The Post Office made me a website and customers in certain villages who do not have post offices can order products by the computer, telephone or post and then on two days a week I deliver them.
''If customer wants to open an account then they can do this in the privacy of their home in total confidence and I can help them fill in the forms. They do not have the pressure of a queue behind them.''
She added: ''I am very enthusiastic about post offices and I believe there has to be a post office service, not only as a retail outlet, but in rural areas post offices are much more than just that.
''The Government is closing down some care centres but postmasters care for the elderly in a variety of different ways and they are there to help, especially in stressful types of problems.
''A lot of people in the country do not own cars, public transport is getting less and less and so they rely on the post office.''