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The decline of cash during the coronavirus pandemic | Discover

Millions rely on cash

But a cashless society doesn’t work for everyone. Older people in particular are likely to rely on cash – for carers, gardeners, and paying back friends, family and neighbours who have done shopping for them. For many it is a habit of a lifetime and they are not comfortable or familiar with other forms of payment. We often hear about older people taking out their weekly pension in cash, as this is how they are used to budgeting their day-to-day spending.

It’s not just older people who rely on cash. It’s estimated that 8 million adults, 17% of the UK’s population, would struggle to cope in a cashless society. Many people with disabilities like sight loss or dexterity problems find it easier to pay in cash. Victims of domestic abuse may need it to help get away from an abusive and controlling partner, while others may need it to help them budget more effectively. It is (low) income rather than age that is the biggest indicator of cash dependency, and vital for the more than 1 million people without a bank account.

Those who rely on cash must often resort to workarounds if they cannot access it easily, but relying on others reduces independence and could put them at risk of abuse. Not having access to digital shopping and payments also excludes those on the lowest incomes from getting the best deal and even accessing some services altogether.

With free cash machines and bank branches in decline, protecting the existing means of access and ensuring these have an excellent reach across the country is paramount.

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