“We welcome today’s announcement by the government to legislate to protect access to cash in principle. As it stands we do not know what the legislation will look like but we hope that our research on vulnerable consumers and their need for access to cash will inform this legislation. We think that the best way forward is to built consensus amongst all stakeholders to ensure free access to cash is available to everyone, but in particular to those who most dependent on it in everyday life.
As it stands we are not ready for a ‘cashless society’, and we may never become one either. Therefore, any policy and legislation should be firmly focused on ensuring access to cash in a ‘cash-lite society’. This seems to be accepted by today’s commitment made by government to ensure access to cash for those who need it in the long-term.
Our most recent report looking at South Wales – Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Rhondda Cynon Taf – provides a starting point and evidence for any such legislative endeavour by providing a community-based mapping tool that captures not only the distance to the nearest bank branch, post office or ATM, it also takes into account the vulnerability of communities and the difficulty they may experience in travelling to access the nearest cash infrastructure, be it the next town or valley.
The latter involves the construction of a measure of travel difficulty, indicating that a high proportion of residents in an area may find it difficult to travel far to access cash (or other essential services, for that matter). This measure incorporates: levels of car ownership, disability, age, income and access to public transport (in the form of nearby bus stops).
Overall, we find that over a quarter (27 per cent) of neighbourhoods suffer from both high travel difficulty and have an AvCash Index score of less than 10. 8 per cent of areas score poorly for travel difficulty and have no free ATM, while a further 12 per cent of areas have just one free ATM and high travel difficulty. These neighbourhoods are not solely rural; many are located on the outskirts of towns. Taken together, we find that over 100,000 people in this region (out of approximately 500,000) live in vulnerable neighbourhoods and do not currently benefit from a protected ATM.
Looking at communities with poor access to cash and a high proportion of residents who may struggle to travel to access their money, provides us with a clearer idea of where poor cash infrastructures may have the highest negative impact.
We must be careful in ensuring that any legislation protects those most vulnerable communities without burdening them with excessive costs. And this may require for us to change how we think about cash – not as a source of profit for some, but as something that works for everyone.”
You can read the full report here: