According to a fascinating research paper, “Alternatives to cash” by Kirsty Bagnall, (April 2020) for Ambition for Ageing, which you can find on the link here, almost 3 million people are reliant completely on cash. And for more than 25m, it is still a necessity and cash transactions still account for about 40% of all of their payments. So imagine all the difficulties this has presented as we are all encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, and isolate where we can during the global pandemic?
It may seem hard to imagine for those of us viewing this information online, but we need to remember that there are still many millions of adults with low digital literacy, and or no access to the internet. These past weeks and months, where so much of life has been forced online, has brought so many additional challenges to these individuals, who already miss out on all the benefits of social contact and up to date information, digital access can provide.
In relation to older people, the paper quotes the staggering figure of “32 per cent of those aged 65+ not using the internet” and it references that as income drops, so does online usage. And it drops yet further for those with disabilities.
So what has this meant for those, at home, running out of cash, and unable to make any digital transactions? In short, it has meant that the vulnerable people who have the highest need for protection, have had to compromise their safety to visit banks, post offices and cash points, in order to get their basic needs met. Because let us not forget, delivery drivers won’t take notes and coins when they arrive at our houses.
Even the click and collect services require a card to make an order and arrange a collection. Those that still depend on cash are left with fewer choices about where they can buy their goods from and can be excluded from cost saving deals and providers.
Among the many lessons learned from this global pandemic, we need to include and address the inequalities experienced by those in our society who, for whatever reason, still use cash for all of their transactions, and make sure that they can stay safe and enjoy all the freedom of choice so many of us take for granted.