Getting access to your money
The National Pensioners Convention has recently been drawing attention to the issue of closures of banks and post offices and the effect on older people.
Many older people have a strong preference for in-branch banking, with face-to-face services allowing the chance to talk to people – an important component of tackling loneliness in our communities. In-branch banking also offers peace of mind and the security of seeing bank transactions take place and receiving a paper record to prove it. Older people often prefer to deal in cash as they have a tangible asset when making a transaction.
Only a minority of older people use internet banking; around a quarter (26%) of people aged 65 to 74 and around three-fifths (61%) of people aged 75+ do not regularly use the internet. Older people are more likely to be ‘digitally excluded’, without the skills or equipment to use online banking.
It is therefore worrying that the UK has lost almost two-thirds of its bank branch network in the past 30 years, leaving a fifth of households more than 1.8 miles from their nearest current account provider. There have been 2,900 branches close in the last 3 years alone. As a result of these closures, there are now ‘banking blackspots’ with no cash machines (ATMs) at all. Moreover, the number of free to use ATMs are also in decline, 50 per month are being withdrawn from service. In addition, the number of post offices has almost halved to 11,500. The Post Office recently announced a plan to franchise 74 Crown Post Offices.
The danger is that banknotes and coins, which are a necessity for millions of people, may become a thing of the past as the closure of free to use ATMs, bank branches and post offices pushes us to becoming a cashless society with millions of people disadvantaged as a result.
The National Pensioners Convention points out that people will be adversely affected by the move towards a society where it is difficult to access or use cash, citing the following concerns:
- Those with mobility, physical or mental health problems might find it hard to use services or to even get to places where they could access services
- Debt management issues could rise, as budgeting is often easier with cash.
- There may be a loss of independence for those who use cash as a lifeline, particularly for those in difficult or abusive relationships.
- People are often charged more or excluded from services and credit when solely dealing in cash.
Even if you are currently digitally savvy, there needs to be some recognition that the needs of people as they age often change, and even an online savvy 65-year-old may choose, or need, to do things differently when they reach 85.
If you feel strongly about this issue then write to your MP and\or to the National Pensioners Convention at Marchmont Community Centre, 62 Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AB or sign the petition which the Communication Workers Union has set up, (ironically it is only easily available online) at: http://www.saveourpostoffice.co.uk