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Charity says older people need more help accessing cash during pandemic

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Older people must continue to have access to cash as digital payment methods become more widespread, Age UK has said.

The charity has written to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requesting it introduces guidance forcing banks and building societies to support older and vulnerable people who are struggling to get cash during the lockdown.

It said it welcomed the “speedy and innovative action” many banks have already taken to help their older customers by, for example, establishing helplines and sending cash through the post, but warned this group “needs more help”.

The letter also asks the FCA to ensure that banks do not discourage older people from contacting them when necessary.

Age UK said much of the messaging from banks, for example in national TV advertising campaigns, is encouraging customers to get in touch via their websites, creating the impression for many older people that they can’t call their bank or visit a branch.

The letter says: “Over the last two weeks we have experienced an increased number of older people contacting us expressing concern that their cash supplies have been exhausted and they don’t know how they will be able to get cash to pay for their shopping or their domiciliary care, or are concerned their supplies of essential goods will soon run out.

“While we welcome the initiatives that firms are undertaking, they don’t solve the problem of getting cash for all older people. We are concerned that many of the hardest to reach older people – someone who lives alone and has a cognitive impairment, for example – may be unable to use these new services.”

More retailers have been switching to cash-free transactions since the Covid-19 outbreak over fears the virus can be transmitted via banknotes.

The limit for contactless spending in shops went up from £30 to £45 on 1 April.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Many older people are particularly reliant on cash and so ensuring that cash supplies are uninterrupted is particularly important to them as lockdown continues. Should there be any problems, contingency plans must ensure that provision is made for people with mobility issues and those living in isolated rural areas to ensure they can continue to access their cash.”

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