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MSs warned move away from cash discriminates against disabled people

24 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

Disabled people are being discriminated against by shops and restaurants that refuse to accept cash, a Senedd committee has heard.

MSs continued taking evidence on a 2,500-name petition, which urges the Welsh Government to ensure vulnerable adults can continue to pay with cash.

The petition was started by Mencap amid concerns that a move towards a cashless society discriminates against people with learning disabilities.

Darren Joyce, director of the Friendly Trust, a charity which helps people manage their money, warned that card-only rules can have a significant impact on someone’s mental well-being as well as their independence.

Financial abuse

He urged businesses to display signs showing whether they accept cash, which would go some way towards reducing anxiety and distress.

During the meeting on Monday 23 October, Mr Joyce also called for support for businesses to keep a cash option as well as a radical change in the way people are taught about money.

Jack Sargeant, who chairs the petitions committee, suggested Welsh Government-funded organisations, such as museums, could be required to accept cash.

In an earlier evidence session, Wayne Crocker – Mencap’s Wales director – said councils must also be challenged on cashless booking for services such as parking and leisure.

He explained that people with learning disabilities can have difficulty accessing banking if they are deemed at risk of financial abuse or as not having capacity to manage an account. 

Dot Gallagher, who chairs Mencap Môn, said: “I’ve got two sons with learning disabilities. My eldest son would wrestle you to the ground if you wanted to take a £20 note off him. But he would freely give you his card and tell you his Pin because it means very little to him.”

She said her eldest banks with the Co-op, which used to have a presence in Bangor but the nearest branch is now in Chester – a round trip of more than 100 miles.

Similarly, Ben Cottam told the committee that members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) often have to travel significant distances to deposit cash.

The FSB’s head of Wales stressed the importance of educating businesses and helping them understand the problems that can be faced by some members of society.

Trudy Davies, who runs a shop in Llanidloes, added that card-only businesses negatively impact older people and those on lower incomes who find cash useful to budget.

She told MSs that some customers still pay by cheque and she delivers to housebound people in outlying villages where there is no internet to take card payments.

Limited levers

In the Welsh Government’s response to the petition, Jane Hutt explained that powers over access to cash are not devolved.

The social justice minister said: “Our levers are limited in this space as this is entirely a voluntary decision based on commercial considerations.”

However, Ms Hutt wrote that businesses will be encouraged to retain a cash option to ensure vulnerable people are not disadvantaged.

A new law, introduced by the UK Government, seeks to protect free access to cash withdrawals and deposits, but it does not cover acceptance of cash.

Almost 40% of people still use cash to pay for something at least once a week, according to research from UK Finance.

In 2019, the Senedd’s economy committee warned that Wales was not ready to go cashless.

Following its inquiry, the petitions committee will produce a report and the Welsh Government must accept or reject each of its recommendations. 

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Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago

Paying by card may seem convenient, but is is 100% safe? Particularly with contactless payment systems.

The other problem with card payment systems is that organisations such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express are all USA companies and that raises sovereignty questions.

Cash must always be an option for all trades and legal tender.

6 months ago

Agree. My fear is that a cashless society gives too much control of our money to the banks.

6 months ago

On the other hand give a 1000 quid to a fraudster and you’ll never see it again. With a bank card you can claim it back. I accept that for small amounts this isn’t likely to be an issue so I would suggest for anything under £100 cash must be accepted.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago

The whole issue of money, its use and banking needs to be seriously discussed. More and more banks are closing their branches and there is no comprehensive response from the Welsh Government. There was some light on the horizon with the Banc Cambria project, which has now been shelved, due, according to the Welsh Government, it being the ‘wrong time’ to introduce such a scheme. If a time when access to cash, and more and more banks closing their branches, when is the right time? I was eagerly waiting to sign up to Banc Cambria so that I could support… Read more »

6 months ago

Going cashless takes even more power away from the individual “spender” and the small trader and gives even more control to the big institutions that can’t be relied upon to do the “right thing”

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