Age UK is calling on the Government to designate access to cash as a Universal Services Obligation for financial instiutions, much like the supply of electricity and drinking water to consumer homes.
With bank branches and free-to-use ATMs rapidly disappearing from the high street, Age UK warns that being cut off from cash and banking services is tantamount to being excluded from society and leaves older people more vulnerable to financial scams and rip-off artists.
The charity estimates that around 2.4 million people aged 65 and over in the UK rely on cash to a great extent in their day-to-day life - representing around one in five (21 per cent) of all older people.
In a recent Age UK panel survey, one in six respondents who use cash found it difficult to do so and a quarter of panel members had been refused when they or someone on their behalf have tried to pay with cash.
Those who struggle getting around are finding it increasingly difficult to access their income, pensions, and savings, says the charity, and in 2020, around 900,000 older people in the UK found it difficult to get to a cash point using ordinary forms of transport.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “It’s time for the Government to recognise how important banknotes and coins are to all our lives and treat the cash system as the essential piece of infrastructure it is - just like utilities, post and broadband. If the Government is serious about ‘building back better’ after the pandemic, then they must legislate to protect cash access within a reasonable travel distance of people’s homes."