Communities are being encouraged to take part in a new initiative to help improve access to cash.
The new Community Access to Cash Pilots, being funded by the financial services industry, will help to work out ways to meet local access to cash needs.
ATM and bank branch closures have fuelled fears that “cash deserts” are being created, particularly in rural and deprived parts of the UK.
The chair of the Community Access to Cash Pilots, Natalie Ceeney, is asking for communities to volunteer to take part in the pilots.
Successful applicants, which could be individuals or local organisations, will work with payments experts.
The aim is to create new approaches, which include helping local shops to give cashback, supporting groups to become more comfortable making digital payments or developing solutions to help small businesses continue to bank cash.
The launch of the pilots follows the publication of the 2019 Access to Cash Review, which found 17% of the UK population rely on cash.
The Community Access to Cash Pilots is one of several initiatives being taken in response to the review’s findings.
Ms Ceeney, who also chaired the Access to Cash Review, said: “I am delighted to chair this independent initiative.
“With the UK becoming an increasingly cashless society, we need to make sure that digital payments work for everyone, but we also need to support communities who rely on cash, so that no-one gets left behind.
“We are very keen to hear from local communities and work with them to identify solutions, acting as a testbed for the type of measures that could be rolled out more widely. This is an important part of the wider work to ensure communities around the UK retain access to cash where it is most needed.”
Trade association UK Finance has predicted that within a decade only one in 10 payments will be made in cash as the popularity of digital payments surges.
Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “While many people are increasingly choosing to use digital payment methods, the banking and finance industry is committed to ensuring that access to cash remains free and widely accessible for anyone that continues to need it.
“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to achieve this and so understanding the needs of local communities is critical.
“That is why we are supporting the Community Access to Cash Pilots initiative as an additional industry measure to improve access, helping local areas develop and support solutions that work best for them.
“As chair, Natalie Ceeney will bring a wealth of experience to the initiative, helping to deliver this important scheme.”
More information about the initiative is being made available at www.communityaccesstocashpilots.org.
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said: “These pilots are exactly what we need: giving us the opportunity to find new ways to support businesses and shoppers impacted by thousands of bank branch and cash point closures in recent years.
“It’s great to see Natalie Ceeney at the helm of this project – her work to date in this area has been indispensable, and we look forward to supporting these pilots as they’re rolled out.”
Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Millions of people are at risk of being cut off from the cash they need to pay for vital goods and services and while industry-led initiatives are encouraging, they are not enough to stem the tide of bank branch and cash machine closures in the long run.
“Without urgent action, the UK’s cash payments system could collapse within two years. That is why the Government must use the Budget to intervene with legislation that protects free access to cash for as long as it is needed.”