A CONSUMER group has called for a radical shake-up of the way post is delivered - saying that many vulnerable groups are being let down.

Research by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) exposed what it calle barriers to accessing mail for certain people, denying them access to important information and services from banks, public services, lawyers, and medical services.

Difficulties in dealing with "care of" addresses or alternative pick-up points was hitting asylum seekers, homeless people, those living in remote and rural areas, domestic abuse survivors, and the traveller community.

CAS said there was a "need for change across the board in relation to postal communication with vulnerable groups".

"We believe that these changes are necessary to prevent people in vulnerable circumstances from experiencing the financial hardship, adverse health impacts, and lack of access to public services that can result from lack of access to post," CAS said.

CAS said problems encountered by groups include intercepted mail, delayed delivery, lack of collection points, and affordability.

CAS said that the unwillingness of government agencies and organisations to accept alternative addresses where people do not have a permanent postal address or have frequent changes of address was also of "great concern".

Some organisations such as the Scottish Refugee Council, try to ensure that documents for individuals they deal with, including travel documentation, are sent to their own office. Legal documentation will often be delivered to the asylum seeker's solicitor who will then inform the client.

But CAS said it was reported that agencies such as the Home Office are "generally slow" in recognising changes of address and will only send mail to the asylum seeker’s actual address.

Even relatively secure addresses such as community centres were not acceptable, CAS said.

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And the group said the practice of surcharging on parcels being sent to rural areas continues to disproportionately affect people "at a time when they experienced greater reliance on delivery services, in pandemic and non-pandemic scenarios".

CAS spokesman Gillian Fyfe said: “Regardless of any strides that have been made in digital communication, post is still an essential service across all communities in Scotland. The research we are publishing shows that the current system is not working for vulnerable groups.

“The barriers we have identified include the fact that people who don’t have a permanent address have to arrange for their mail to be delivered to alternative addresses. Many organisations refuse to send post which may be vital or time sensitive to those addresses, and this can increase the chances of post going missing. All of this can cause detriment for these consumers either financially, personally, or in their ability to access essential support services."

CAS said the communications regulator Ofcom should examine tee need for affordable redirection services for vulnerable groups as part of the current call for input into its Review of Postal Regulation.

They said government and local councils should consider whether the introduction of similar schemes to the Address & Collect service, Address Point or the Proxy Address service would be of benefit in Scotland, especially for those people who may change addresses on a frequent basis.

It also said the authorities should should consider whether the current practices in their sectors in relation to the use of “care of” or proxy addresses "adequately meet" the needs of vulnerable groups.

“The findings relating to domestic abuse survivors are particularly distressing, as survivors of domestic abuse can be at risk of perpetrators intercepting post. A more flexible system allowing access to alternative pick up or collection points would provide more secure access to post for this group," added Ms Fyfe.

“Restricted access to mail is a significant problem for all the groups considered in this research. These are people we should be making sure are supported and instead they are being left behind. So we are unveiling today a package of recommendations that we believe should be considered and implemented by the postal industry, regulators, and governments at all levels.”