Weekly Poll – Postal Services

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 24 January 2022, we asked a question about Postal Services.

Results

Question. Do you have access to an affordable, reliable and accessible postal service? 

  • YES – 52% (31 respondents)
  • NO – 48% (29 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Affordability of using the postal service

Respondents to this week’s poll commented on the perceived increased cost of using the postal service.  For some respondents, this discouraged them from using the service at all.

“The cost of posting letters is too expensive.”

“The prices of post have shot up over the last few years since it was privatised.”

“I think that the cost of stamps keeps going up as they have less and less letters to deliver due to email etc while at the same time they have costs such as fuel, electricity etc that they have to pay for which they pass on to customers.”

“The cost of postage has increased recently to a point where one questions is it worth using the service?”

Those living in remote or rural parts of Scotland reported that there was an increased cost to them in using the postal service, particularly through delivery charges for parcels.

“I live on a Scottish island so there are extra issues around this in terms of getting an affordable postal service – the lack of a universal service obligation across all services makes affordability a major issue for people in remote areas of Scotland. This is still a major problem – being disabled means you tend to have to order online rather than travel into town which means you can be stung for extra delivery charges due to remoteness (if you can get things delivered at all).”

“If I have to send a parcel, I use couriers like Hermes or DPD as their charges are much lower than Royal Mail.”

“Postal services in rural areas are a disgrace and have got much worse since privatisation of Royal Mail who are now paying a high dividend to their shareholders.”

Reliability and speed of the postal service

There were comments about the reliability of the postal service, with respondents finding that mail did not arrive when expected.  Those in rural areas also had acute concerns about the speed and reliability of their postal service.  For example, some people had received information about their COVID vaccine too late, and deliveries of medication had also been delayed.  This caused increased frustration for disabled people.

“Due to living in a remote rural part of Scotland, we are lucky if we get a letter delivery two or three times a week. My notification of appointment for the booster vaccination did not arrive until after the date of the vaccination. As for parcel deliveries, my urgently needed medication was sent to me by first class post but did not arrive in time to start using it, so I had to spend a small fortune getting a taxi to the pharmacist to collect it myself.”

“Deliveries are not the best. Sometimes delivering three-days mail at a time, irrespective of first or second class. I needed an item for a meeting – it was sent first class but came the day after the meeting in a three-day bundle.”

“Royal Mail are too expensive and too slow with deliveries. We are in the north east and they say it takes longer; plus post offices are hardly open nor offer any services now.”

Location and Accessibility of Postal Services

Overwhelmingly, comments from respondents related to the location and accessibility of postal services.  This was a result of the closure of local Post Offices, and for these to be replaced with smaller, sub-offices, often located inside other shops, which were largely inaccessible.  These issues will be discussed in turn below.

Post Office Closures

One of the most common issues for respondents was that their local Post Office had closed, often without appropriate consultation, which left people with limited alternatives.

“Until the drastic cuts in Post Office premises we had a Post Office in the village, there was another one within two miles both of which have closed without consultation.”

“My local Post Office was closed down several years ago.”

“I would prefer more local branches.”

“I stay in a town of 8,000, with a further 5,000 in outlying villages and countryside. The main post office closed approx. ten years ago. Since then, it’s been promise after promise, we have only a very small sub-Post Office now.”

Distance to travel

Disabled people reported having to travel to reach their local postal services.  This could be a result of local closures, or where Post Office premises were not accessible.

“I have to travel five miles to my nearest Post Office as the shop two doors down was made to only take part-time opening hours. Those of us who can’t take public transport and have to drive, are made to travel distances with no assurance that we can park anywhere near one.”

“I have to travel a 52-mile round trip in order to get cash (which is needed to pay for purchases in some local one-person shops which do not accept cards) as my nearest Post Office is not accessible.”

“The nearest Post Office to me is 4 miles away – a half hour journey by bus.”

“My nearest post box is quite a distance away from me and I therefore require to wait until a day where I am able, then get in a car and take a five minute car journey to get to the post box, then return. It actually takes me longer to get in and out of the car than it does to drive!”

“If I have to collect postage, I have to go further out of town in a direction I would have no other reason to go. If I am able to get a bus, I still have about 500m to walk.”

Parking

Often because of local closures, people found that they now had to drive to their nearest Post Office, or post box.  A lack of accessible parking was an issue for many disabled people.

“The Post Office itself is accessible but nearby parking is an issue so taking a parcel to, or collecting from, the Post Office is difficult especially for people with energy limiting and/or mobility conditions.”

“I have a long walk to get into my Post Office, there are no disabled parking facilities.”

“I have to park in a nearby street or multi story carpark, which brings its problems, as to being able to carry the item/s.”

“I use Royal Mail for letters, but I have to travel four miles to use the service, but there is no local car parking and as I’m disabled and have difficulty walking I have difficulty accessing the Post Office!”

Closure of local services/replaced with sub-offices

In many instances where Post Offices had closed, they had been replaced with smaller, counter-style services within other premises.  There were issues raised around accessibility, as well as privacy as many of these locations were inside local shops.

“My major concerns are regarding the increase in the number of Post Offices that are operating in premises that offer little or no privacy for the customer! I know here, it is situated in a fast-food cafe and in my home village, it is in a chip shop.”

“The actual postal service is at the back of a shop with a narrow corridor to negotiate. As a wheelchair user, I find this and general shop fittings (bins etc.) really hard to get past in order to reach the counter.

“Only Post Office that I can get to is in a local Spar shop. Limited services and length of standing to wait means that as much as possible gets done online.”

“The Post Office in my area is at the back of a WH Smith and getting through the store as a wheelchair user can be a bit difficult.”

“While we are very fortunate to have a Post Office in our village, it is actually just part of a partitioned counter in a very small newsagent’s shop in a tenement building. It was always crowded prior to Covid restrictions, and is frequently queued out now, often with people standing in the street outside.”

There were some people in rural areas however who were appreciative of the Postal service, which also provides other financial support in remote areas.

“Our postal services are supplied by a small sub–Post Office that also provides banking services. This is a lifeline for locals in villages located in rural areas.”

Inaccessible premises

Feedback suggests that many found the Post Office premises to be inaccessible.  Often there are display items blocking the way, or there are heavy doors making it difficult to access.  In some cases, premises were completely inaccessible to wheelchair users, resulting in people unable to access the premises in person, and using online methods instead.

“The closest Post Office is only about 400 yards away but has steps at the entrance to the grounds – it’s impossible to get up there in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, the Post Office website often lists these Post Offices as accessible when they’re not and there doesn’t appear to be any way to get this corrected.”

“I am unable to access my local Post Office due to the fact it has double swing doors and there is a large shop display unit on the other side of the door that does not leave enough space for my power chair.”

“I do not have any disabilities, but if I had a mobility issue, or needed to use a manual or power chair, the door threshold would be an obstacle, and the dimensions of the shop and its internal fit-out mean that it is very definitely not wheelchair accessible.”

“My local Post Office is up two flights of steps, which as a wheelchair user is impossible! There is a bell and a ramp that staff can get, but it’s a wait, and as its heavy it needs two persons to lift. I rarely use it, and now do all my mail online.”

Staff attitude and behaviour

In some local areas, individual postal workers knew the disabled person and were able to accommodate their individual needs.  For example, some postal workers delivering mail or parcels would know to wait if someone took a bit longer to reach the door.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with couriers or delivery companies, and several respondents reported issues in receiving their parcels.

“Thankfully however my local postman is great and allows me extra time to get to the door if he has a parcel. However, most of the items I purchase online are delivered by other companies not the postal service.”

“Due to the number of deliveries I have to take due to my disability and living in a remote location with few delivery staff I know all of them well and find that all of them are very helpful with deliveries and helping out when needed. This is due to the diligence of the workers themselves rather than instructions from on-high. I can see cities having more issues where postal workers can’t get to know people as well.”

“Postal workers and delivery drivers do not follow delivery instructions. We need drivers to wait longer so that we can actually get to the door to answer it or ask they leave the parcel on a table/shelf, not the floor because we can’t pick it up from the floor.”

“I have two different notices on my door asking people to wait and unfortunately, despite knowing my post person/s, they still continue to bang on my door and ring the bell until I open the door. Unfortunately, I have injured myself several times trying to get to the door. If I miss a delivery, trying to access the main depot to collect it, is extremely frustrating and difficult, as they have no parking spaces around them.”

Respondents had also experienced poor examples of disability awareness from staff in Post Office premises.  There were examples of few reasonable adjustments to cater for those who perhaps cannot stand in long queues, or any recognition of assistance cards, indicating the person may need extra help.

“When I do get in (Post Office) and if there is a long queue there is nowhere to sit and I cannot stand for long, I don’t think the staff would be able to give appropriate assistance if needed.”

“I showed the man my Saltire Card and pointed to the symbol showing I am partially sighted. I have been asked “What does that mean?” (sometimes with a slightly rude tone) and I’ve had to tell them in front of a long queue.”

 Reliant on Friends and Family

The impact of these closures and inaccessible premises results in disabled people often having to rely on friends or family to collect or send post on their behalf.  This has made some disabled people feel that they cannot be as independent as they would like.

“I often have to ask family and friends to collect or send parcels for me, which, while they don’t mind, it leaves me in tears as it’s another part of my independence I have had to give into.”

“All of my local sub-Post Offices have closed down and because I use a wheelchair and don’t drive, it is really hard to get to a Post Office independently, I have to rely on friends and family.”

“As a wheelchair user, I don’t even try to post anything myself anymore, but I get a family member to do it for me. There is a lack of space enough to get round the queue for someone on foot, but as a wheelchair user it’s much worse.”

In conclusion

The main concerns of disabled people related to the closure of local Post Office premises and for alternative services to be located at a distance or for postal premises to be inaccessible for disabled people to use.  This could be because of the internal layout with display items in passageways, with heavy doorways, up flights of stairs and without any wheelchair access.

Equally, there were concerns over the general affordability and reliability of the postal service.  Appointments and medication had been delayed as a result.

In some communities, postal delivery staff knew the individual disabled person and could accommodate their needs -but this was not often the case; particularly when couriers were delivering or collecting parcels.  There were reports of disabled people injuring themselves trying to get answer impatient delivery staff.

Some disabled people reported they felt forced into using online services or rely on friends and family as a result of an inaccessible service, which reduced their independence.