Charity calls for more bank hubs

Age UK, a charity, has called for the opening of more shared banking hubs in the UK to assist those who are uncomfortable managing their finances online. Bank hubs are locations shared by several different banks and are intended to assist communities that have experienced the closure of all of their bank branches. Since January 2015, an average of 54 UK branches has closed each month, but only four hubs have been established so far. Age UK has discovered that older or vulnerable people may have difficulty with online banking and that 27% of those over 65 and 58% of those over 85 rely on face-to-face banking.

Charities and consumer groups have urged for the accelerated establishment of banking hubs in areas where all branches have closed. These hubs usually have counter services run by major banks, with a dedicated space where customers may visit community bankers from their own bank, with different banks visiting on different days of the week. Another 48 banking hubs have been authorized for regions throughout the UK, but it can take up to a year to locate a site and get it operational. Banks have cited the decrease in branch usage and the popularity of managing money through smartphones, which have been expedited by the Covid epidemic, as reasons for reducing their branch network.

However, Age UK’s study revealed that individuals aged over 85, female, on low incomes, or more disadvantaged than their counterparts are most likely to feel uncomfortable using online banking. Among those who felt uncomfortable, the main concerns about online banking were fraud and scams, a lack of trust in online banking services, and a lack of computer skills. Age UK stated that 34% of those earning less than £17,500 annually mainly banked face-to-face, compared to 15% of those earning £30,000 to £49,999 per year. Furthermore, since the beginning of 2020, more branches have closed in poorer regions of the UK than in wealthier areas.

Age UK’s report, “You can’t bank on it anymore,” emphasizes the importance of safeguarding physical banking spaces, stating that the last bank in town should remain open until a hub is available to open. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, stated that it is crucial to recognize that many older people, particularly the oldest old, do not bank online. She added that a lack of face-to-face banking will further exclude the millions of people on a low income who have no or limited internet access. John Howells, chief executive of cash machine and cash access network Link, believes that the proposed national network of shared banking hubs provided by the banking industry is a popular and easy-to-use method of protecting face-to-face banking services for millions of consumers who rely on cash.

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