How Cash Supports the Financial Freedom of People with Disabilities

Nov 22, 2023


A Welsh Parliament committee has heard that businesses refusing cash are discriminating against people with disabilities, with the government being urged to take action to ensure cash remains accessible and usable to support financial freedom for all.

Evidence was gathered after a petition started by The Royal Mencap Society—a UK charity working with people with learning disabilities—reached over 2,500 signatures. It draws attention to the vital importance of cash in ensuring vulnerable adults are able to manage their own finances.

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.
"Dot Gallagher, Chair, Mencap Môn

Darren Joyce, director of the Friendly Trust charity, which provides people assistance with managing their money, is concerned that card-only rules can have a negative impact on many people’s mental health and well-being, and is calling for businesses to display signs indicating they accept cash, ‘which would go some way towards reducing anxiety and distress.’

Wayne Crocker, director of Mencap Cymru, says councils must also be challenged on cashless policies for services such as parking and leisure facilities, explaining that people with learning disabilities can be denied access to banking—and thus cashless payment options—if they are considered at risk of financial abuse or lacking the capacity to manage an account.

Welsh Parliament member Jack Sargeant, Chair of the Petitions Committee, suggested government-funded organisations such as museums could be required to accept cash.

On the business side, Ben Cottam, Head of Wales at the Federation of Small Businesses, told the committee that FSB members often have to travel long distances to deposit cash takings due to bank closures, and stressed the importance of educating businesses on the value of cash to certain members of society.

Trudy Davies, a shop owner based in Llanidloes, added that cashless business can also exclude individuals on lower incomes who use cash to manage tight budgets, as well as elderly people and others for whom cashless technology is either undesirable or inaccessible.

The accessibility of cash extends to people who are blind or partially sighted, with nearly all currencies worldwide including visual aids such as the large numbers and tactile markings on notes produced by the Bank of England, which collaborates with the Royal National Institute of Blind People to ensure notes are easily handled and understood by all, including people with sight loss.

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

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2023