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Cashless Wales excludes people with learning disabilities

22 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

People with learning disabilities are being excluded from daily activities such as shopping by businesses who only accept card payments, according to a Senedd Committee.

Today, as part of Learning Disabilities Week (17-23 June), the Petitions Committee launches a new report calling on the Welsh Government to do more to ensure that people who want to use cash can do so.

The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to guarantee that all organisations which receive public funding are required to accept cash payments.


With more and more businesses now going cashless, this has a knock-on effect where people with learning disabilities who don’t have credit or debit cards have been unable to purchase items.

Janet Jones gave evidence to the Committee about supporting Steven McGee, who has a learning disability.

She said, “Steven is very sociable and likes to go to coffee shops and likes to pay with his own money. But we’ve gone into places before where he’s ordered coffee only to be told ‘it’s card only’. It takes that social aspect away from someone like Steven and makes him upset.”

Fewer banks

The Committee’s report found that one of the main reasons that businesses move to cashless payments is that in many areas there are no high-street banks to deposit cash locally.

A UK Parliament inquiry found that the number of high-street banks in Wales has reduced by 40% from 2012.

Mencap Cymru’s petition on the Senedd website collected over 2,500 signatures, prompting the Committee to launch the inquiry to look at the issue in more detail.

Wayne Crocker, Director of Mencap Cymru, said: “Mencap Cymru created this petition to the Senedd Petition’s committee as we were concerned with the increasing exclusion of people with a learning disability because of their lack of access to digital forms of payment.

“We were especially concerned that public bodies, which have a duty to act in a non-discriminatory way, such as Welsh Government and local government aren’t by accident discriminating by funding organisations to discriminate against people with a learning disability by refusing to take cash.”

“Mencap Cymru’s members and people we support are telling us that it is becoming more and more difficult to access their local community venues such as shops, cafes, arts & leisure venues as they are not able to pay by card.

“Whilst we recognise that many of the issues facing access to cash are not devolved, we welcome and support the recommendations of the Petitions Committee inquiry and urge the Welsh Government to work with disabled people and the organisations who support them to address the recommendations in the report and ensure that this insidious form of exclusion is reversed and people who are unable to access digital payment are not further excluded from Welsh society.”

Unintended consequences

The Committee also recommends clearer signage in businesses that don’t accept cash payments to reduce some of the embarrassing and upsetting experiences faced by people with learning disabilities when they have been told that they cannot pay with cash and must leave the premises.

On one occasion, the Committee was told, the police were called in response to an individual becoming distressed when they were not allowed to purchase a magazine using cash.

Jack Sargeant MS, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “We have all noticed the shift to cashless transactions in recent years, but what is less obvious is the unintended consequences of this. It’s clear that refusing cash payments excludes people with learning disabilities  from accessing services and buying goods.

“We believe that the Welsh Government should ensure that, if an organization receives public money, they should be able process cash payments from members of the public.

“From speaking to businesses, the move towards cashless transactions has been driven by big banks closing branches, meaning many traders find it easier to not accept cash at all.

“I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who gave evidence to the Committee who spoke of upsetting experiences of being unable to pay with cash. This Committee gives people the opportunity to raise issues that are not discussed very often, so I’d like to thank Mencap Cymru for bringing this matter to our attention.”


The Welsh Government should also commission research to explore the challenges faced by people who do not use digital payments, according to the Committee.

In addition to people with learning disabilities, this should also include people who have no bank account or those who choose to only use cash to avoid falling into debt.

The Welsh Government is expected to formally respond to the Petition Committee’s report in early August.

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23 days ago

This is true, I was in Scaredy Cats Cafe in Cardiff & they have a card only policy & a man walks in with a disability & they refuse to serve him as he doesn’t have a card & kept showing them a wallet full of money – it was very demeaning & in the end I bought him the coffee with my card .

Why vote
Why vote
23 days ago

A cashless society, why have banks at all? you will be charged for every transaction you make. Scams will increase 1000% as reported last week about Sweden. Everything will be online and available including our medical information to any scamers that require it as reported today ‘ blood test information published on line by scamers ‘ who will be responsible for security around our information held by any organisation, business or financial institution, who is ready willing and able with compensation when we are scamed or there is a power cut. the world is not ready for this but let’s… Read more »

Morfudd ap Haul
Morfudd ap Haul
23 days ago

Cash should be accepted everywhere. If I am told it’s card only there is only a slim chance of a tip and if a service charge is added to the bill I ask that it is taken off. Though I will sometimes give the person a tip but only in cash.

Last edited 23 days ago by Morfudd ap Haul
Nia James
Nia James
23 days ago

A card-only policy is clearly discriminatory against many people and sectors in society. I have raised this point with several organisations and companies and they either just shrug their shoulders and say ‘so what’, or we get the standard response that card-only “is what people are demanding?” Are they? Welsh Government should put pressure on the incoming UK Government to enshrine in law the right to use cash within all business, retail and leisure environments.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
22 days ago

Everybody should have the right to use cash. Not to have a system of coins and banknotes will lead to more waste in landfill as we would have no incentive to renew, repair and sell on items that we have have no use for and may be useful to anyone else. Individuals, even with a bank account cannot take payments by card. However, cash can be used to receive and make payments. Credit and debit cards are a closed system dominated by the banks and the three main card operators, all of which are American companies listed on the NYSE.… Read more »

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