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Cash access must be guaranteed, says Age UK

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Age UK has said people should have guaranteed access to cash in the same way they do with water, electricity and post.

While cash use has declined over the last year, the charity said it would be a mistake to assume that everyone in society is willing or able to make all their financial transactions digitally.

It said three-quarters of people 65 and over had used cash in the last month alone and that, despite the pandemic, £81bn was taken out from ATMs last year, equivalent to £221m every day.

The pandemic highlighted just how about important cash access is to older people, many of whom spent a good part of last year shielding at home.

Eileen, aged 72, told Age UK: “People were lovely and would do some shopping for us, but I didn’t always have money in the house to pay them, and I couldn’t access money.”

“Finding loose change for somebody who went and got the paper for me; that’s 70 pence, but then you realise you’ve only got a £10 note. That £10 would go so quickly, and I couldn’t just go to the ATM.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Protecting the cash system is essential for enabling millions of citizens to go about their lives, and since it was still widely used during the pandemic, when spending opportunities were few, it’s going to be all the more important for us once we emerge from it and return to some kind of normality.

“Older people who use cash and their local bank branch are finding it increasingly impossible to manage their money because more and more barriers are being put in their way. They don’t want to give up their independence by having to rely on a family member or neighbour, they want to keep control of how they do financial things – but they don’t want to or can’t do it online.”

Earlier this month, the Post Office called for access to cash to be a legal right.

The ‘Save our Cash’ campaign is calling on the government to make it a legal requirement for banks to provide cash withdrawal services free at the point of service for those who need it.

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