For millions of people across the country, access to physical cash is a vital lifeline.
From budgeting to buying groceries, to those who don’t have bank accounts or access to digital services, cash is essential. In particular, it is the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society who depend on this.
But over recent years, we’ve seen bank branches leave our high streets, cash machines disappear, and those that are left all too often charge people to access and withdraw their own money.
And with concerns over hygiene during the Covid-19 outbreak, cash is increasingly being refused.
These circumstances have combined to ensure that our gradual transition to a cashless society has accelerated, and it risks leaving millions behind.
That’s why it is vital that the Chancellor uses the upcoming budget as an opportunity to do more to safeguard access to cash, and protect those who rely on it.
As my MP, I am asking you support to this call, and ask the Chancellor on my behalf to urgently bring forward legislation to protect Access to Cash.
Without action, the elderly and vulnerable people in our community and across the country will be hit disproportionately hard and left behind when they need our support the most.
Will you please stand up for Access to Cash?
Hampshire UNSON Retired Members
Thank you for contacting me about access to physical cash.
As you may know, the use of cash in this country has been declining for some time and the pandemic has accelerated this. However, in 2017 there were still over one million people in the UK without a bank account. Many communities, especially older and more vulnerable people, still rely on cash. It is clear that we need to find ways to manage and protect access to cash.
We should not underestimate the anxiety and distress that many vulnerable people feel when bank branches are closed and what those closures mean for the local high street. Between 2012 and 2019, the number of bank and building society branches fell by 22%. Over eight million adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society. Therefore, it is vital that no one is left behind by the transition to more digital forms of payment.
The Government announced last year that it would legislate to protect access to cash for those who need it and has recently held a call for evidence on the future of people’s access to cash.
I welcome this commitment. However, I am worried that if we do not get to grips with this task quickly, it will only worsen the inequalities in our society.
For example, the Post Office recently announced that it is closing 600 of its ATMs by March 2022. By not protecting access to cash, we risk exacerbating inequality and shutting people out from access to vital everyday services. I am also worried that many free-to-use ATMs are being converted to pay-to-use ATMs, particularly in deprived communities.
An unmanaged drift to a cashless society would do significant harm to millions of people across the country and could have a substantial impact on jobs and businesses. I believe the Government must ensure that the most vulnerable in our society can still access financial services in their communities.
The responses to the call for evidence are currently being considered, and I can assure you that I will continue to follow this matter closely.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.
Alan Whitehead MP
Labour MP for Southampton Test