Tony Flower writes
Do you remember your first pay packet? For those of us of a certain age, it consisted of a little brown envelope that contained a payslip, some notes and a few coins. You were paid weekly and collected it as you left work on a Friday afternoon. The weekend starts here (after your parents took their cut for food and rent!).
How times have changed! These days, all payment goes directly into your bank account, whether that be monthly salary, benefits, or pension. Bills and subscriptions can be paid by direct debit and your money is reduced to figures on a statement or app. Once the necessities are paid for, one must hope that the final balance is positive. Maybe even a little left to spend on yourself!
It is no longer necessary to carry cash. Those grimy pre-owned notes and the loose change that rattled in your pocket. It all belongs to the past; doesn’t it? A little plastic card in your wallet/purse is all you need. Wave it over their convenient machine and they’re happy to take your money, without you ever seeing it. A completely painless exercise, so long as you have the funds and the self-discipline not to spend what you don’t have.
But what of people with learning disabilities? They may not have access to a debit card, or they may find it hard to keep track of their spending. Perhaps someone else manages their money if they lack the mental capacity to understand it themselves. For them, cash may form their only financial independence.
We take for granted our right to walk into a shop or café and purchase something. But, during the pandemic, many businesses became cashless, thereby excluding people for whom cash is their only means of payment.
In April 2022, a petition claimed that cashless businesses discriminate against people with learning disabilities. It asked that it be made unlawful for shops to refuse cash payments. In response, the Government said: ‘The Government does not plan to mandate cash acceptance. Businesses are able to choose the forms of payment they accept.’
No one is suggesting that we all revert to the days when coins weighed us down, wore holes in our pockets and compromised the cut of our cloth. But surely, as a society, we should still accommodate cash for those that prefer it; and, more importantly, for those who have no other option.
There’s more than one way to embrace change.