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A cashless society, small businesses and the elderly

  • by JW

“Going cashless isn’t straightforward”


Banks and cash machines are disappearing from our high street:

Sidmouth loses yet another high street bank – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Cash machines disappearing from our high streets – Vision Group for Sidmouth


We can adapt:

A virtual high street for Sidmouth? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

South West Mutual bank comes to Sidmouth > ‘get involved’ and sign up for the bank’s newsletter – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Nevertheless, the current turmoil has been speeding up the ‘cashless society’, as reported in the Mail this week:

How Covid has been the nail in the coffin for many local bank branches | This is Money


And this is shutting certain groups out of the economy:

Payment cards and digital wallets were catching on before the spread of Covid-19, but the shift has accelerated… The downsides of a rapid shift to digital payments are well known—the elderly, poor, and people with handicaps can be especially unprepared. Black Americans are less likely to have bank accounts than other groups in the US, and the same is true for poor people in Europe, according to a report published today by the Bank for International Settlements. Small businesses tend to bear the highest costs for card payments, and BIS data show that cash transactions remain cheaper to process for merchants.

Will a cashless world be fair for everyone? | World Economic Forum

More than a third of UK shoppers blocked from paying with cash in Covid-19 crisis | Banking | The Guardian


Looking at the Sid Valley, one group in particular affected by these rapid changes is the single trader – an important part of the local economy:

A large chunk of the UK’s GDP, 12 per cent by some estimates, is made up by self-employed workers and tradespeople – cleaners, nannies, builders – often described with the catch-all label of “informal economy”. Many of these people are unbanked or earn cash in hand. With the country officially in recession, and approximately 9.6 million jobs currently furloughed, budgeting will become a particularly salient issue in the upcoming years. “Vulnerable customers, which includes those on low incomes managing tight budgets or [who] have been excluded from the banking system, rely on cash to budget and manage their payments.”

The pandemic has killed cash | WIRED UK


Perhaps the group most affected in the Sid Valley, however, is the elderly:

Age UK says that many older people rely on cash as their default way of paying for a range of essential good and services and this group will need more help in the move to contactless forms of payments. Additionally, the charity warns that some new measures, such as bank helplines, will be of little use to those older people who struggle with such processes; for example those who have a health condition that limits their ability to talk to their bank.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Many older people are particularly reliant on cash and so ensuring that cash supplies are uninterrupted is particularly important to them as lockdown continues. Should there be any problems, contingency plans must ensure that provision is made for people with mobility issues and those living in isolated rural areas to ensure they can continue to access their cash. It’s deeply worrying that some older people are telling us that their cash supplies have run out and they are worried about how they will pay for their shopping, and are concerned their supplies of essentials will run out soon if they have no means of paying for more.”

Age UK emphasises need for older people to access cash in the race to a contactless society • THIIS Magazine

Charity calls on FCA to ensure elderly have access to cash during pandemic


And it’s something that has been concerning parliament, with this debate on the issues last month:

Covid-19: Access to and Acceptance of Cash – Thursday 3 December 2020 – Hansard – UK Parliament

UK committee warns of ‘cashless society’ dangers – Cayman Compass

UK Treasury explores future of cash | ATM Marketplace


And we do indeed need to be thinking ahead:

British banks may have to copy Sweden by protecting cash for elderly | Daily Mail Online

Going cashless isn’t straightforward. Ask Sweden, or Zimbabwe