Communities to benefit from Access to Cash pilot
Eight locations across Britain have been chosen to take part in a Community Access to Cash Pilot.
Working with the banking industry, the project will look at solutions to keeping cash viable for people and businesses. Potential ways to make improvements could include installing new ATMs and having a place for retailers to deposit cash locally.
One location is the Camphill Village Trust's Botton Village in the North York Moors National Park where a community of mostly people who have learning disabilities or other special needs live by and work on farms. Andrew Arnell, business and enterprise manager for the Trust, said that one of the benefits will be training opportunities.
'People with learning disabilities in particular sometimes have difficulty getting access to cash. Most benefits are paid directly into a bank account,' he added. 'Being able to access cash raises self-esteem, independence skills and it gives people more say. Having cash just gives people more freedom.'
The opportunity was about 'empowering' residents, he said.
The Trust will next have talks with those organising the pilot to get work under way.
Founded in 1955, Botton was the first Camphill centre to offer opportunities to adults with learning disabilities and other special need. It has more than 30 houses and around 600 acres of dairy and livestock farmland and forestry.
As part of the scheme there will also be a focus on 'digital inclusion'. Better broadband connections or improved digital skills could also be ways of making it easier for people to access their money.
The pilot is being led by Natalie Ceeney, who chaired the Access to Cash Review and the findings will be published in early 2021.
Cash use has dropped significantly during the coronavirus outbreak with many shops encouraging people to pay by card and people visiting ATMs less often. According to figures from UK Finance, 7.4 million people rarely or never used cash in 2019 - but 2.1 million used cash regularly.
Ms Ceeney said: 'Over the past decade we've seen a massive shift from cash to digital payments, and Covid-19 has accelerated that trend further; but we know that digital payments don't yet work for everyone, and for many individuals and communities, cash remains essential.'
John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, said: 'Digital payments have brought huge benefits, but we know that cash remains important to many people's lives. So I welcome today's announcement of the locations of the pilots, which will help inform the most effective ways of protecting access to cash at the local level, at a time when our communities mean more to us than ever.
I look forward to seeing the progress made by the pilots, as the Government develops legislation to protect access to cash, and would like to thank Natalie Ceeney CBE for her work on this important issue.'