A leading UK charity is asking regulators to force banks to support older and vulnerable customers who are struggling to access cash during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The coronavirus pandemic is radically changing cash usage in the UK, with ATM withdrawals falling 60% during the lockdown and three quarters of Brits reporting that their use of paper money is down.
Age UK has written an open letter to the Financial Conduct Authority warning that the rush towards a cashless society could leave some older people unable to pay their way.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director, Age UK, says: "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."
The charity welcomes the action that many banks have already taken during the lockdown to help their older customers by, for example, establishing helplines, sending cash through the post and making it easier for people to get cash on older people’s behalf.
However, it says more needs to be done and warns that the measures already introduced won’t be of much use to those older people who struggle with the new processes; for example those who have a health condition that limits their ability to talk to their bank.
Age UK is also concerned that banks are pushing customers to digital channels. A third of the 70-plus population in England, the equivalent of 2.3 million people, live in a household without access to the internet.
The letter asks the FCA to consider introducing guidance to force banks and building societies to offer further support for their older customers, and to share the best practice that has emerged so far.
"We welcome the actions businesses and the FCA have already taken to help customers access cash these last few weeks but more needs to be done, supported by clear direction from the FCA, so every older person is confident they can get the cash they need to pay their way," says Abrahams.