Gaps in the network: Impact of outreaches and temporary closures on post office access
The post office network continues to provide vital access to essential face-to-face services. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) people visit a post office every week, while nearly half (45%) visit at least once a month.
The government and Post Office Ltd’s publicly stated intention is for the network to be convenient and easily accessible to everyone. But in recent years we’ve seen sharp increases in temporarily closed and part-time outreach post offices.
Our analysis reveals that 1,291 post offices in Britain were ‘temporarily closed’ in September 2021, nearly twice as many as the 662 in September 2017. They are often closed for a significant period of time - more than 8 in 10 for over a year. And 1 in 3 rural post offices in Britain are now provided as part-time outreaches. These services are open for an average of only 5 and a half hours a week.
Our report [ 1 mb] and film , setting out the findings of comprehensive new quantitative and qualitative research, show that the trends in post office closures and outreaches are leading to growing cracks in coverage and causing significant inconvenience and uncertainty for the people living in these communities. They are a particular problem in rural locations where people and small businesses rely on post office services the most. Almost 1 in 4 (23%) rural residents use a post office at least once a week. Older and disabled people, carers, and people who don’t use the internet are also disproportionately impacted.
When post offices close people are forced to take on the additional costs and the inconvenience of travelling further - something which can be particularly challenging in rural areas and for those who face barriers to travelling long distances. Although for some people outreaches may be better than nothing, many find the service inadequate. Provision is too infrequent, opening hours inconvenient, queues too long, and vital services missing.
The impact goes beyond individuals, as communities are deprived of what was once a thriving social hub and source of support.
Post Office Ltd and the government have not yet come forward with a convincing plan to address the rapidly rising numbers of temporary closures and part-time outreaches. Urgent action is needed to reverse these trends to ensure that the post office network really is convenient and easily accessible to everyone.