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Keeping the Homeless Included as Britain Becomes an Increasingly Cashless Society

Britain is fast emerging as one of the nations where it is easiest to live without ever having to use cash, and instead to entirely rely on electronic payment methods. While this is more convenient for a great many people, there are groups in society, like the homeless, on whom increasing cashlessness is in fact having a detrimental impact.

Simon Black, CEO of PPRO Group, believes it is important the homeless are not left behind by societal trends, and gives some insightful statistics from his group’s research regarding cashless trends in Britain: “We live in a culture of increasing convenience which has influenced, and will dramatically transform, the way in which payments are conducted. The news that homeless people are wearing barcodes around their necks in an attempt to increase donations is a clear illustration, that while Britain is fast becoming a cashless society, it is clear there needs to be more effort to make sure that minorities, such as the homeless, are not being left behind by societal trends. The fact that the online payment is then managed by a case worker also illustrates an emphasis on trust which may encourage individuals to make a more generous donation.

“PPRO Group’s research found physical money is fast becoming redundant in today’s increasingly connected society with a third (33%) of the UK stating that they never use cash anymore. Unsurprisingly this figure rises to 51% among millennials, while older generations are stoically sticking to the coins in their purses as only 27% prefer to shop online.

“26% of us would never choose to pay cash when buying an item in a shop and more than a quarter of us (26.35%) find it irritating when we have to pay by cash rather than by card. The popularity of mobile and contactless payments clearly demonstrates the acceptance of change when it comes to payments in the UK, and that is even being reflected when it comes to giving money to the homeless”.

The people who are behind the initiative of homeless people wearing barcodes are Greater Change – a mobile donation system backed by the University of Oxford which provides homeless people with a QR code so they are able to receive electronic payments from passersby.

Now that the Bank Of England has announced the withdrawal of coppers, which will be put into effect sometime in the near future, we can see the steps the UK are taking towards becoming a cashless society.

Michal Kissos Hertzog, from digital-only bank Pepper said, “Physical notes and coins are becoming less and less important in everyday life, we already know this from research which reveals the UK is nearing closer to becoming a cashless society in favour of card and mobile payments. And a natural step towards building this cashless society would be to phase out smaller value coins.

“The big reason for the popularity of cash dying out is because of the success of online and mobile banking, with six in ten (63%) people in the UK using it on a regular basis already. The benefits of it are clear – all transactions can be tracked, its fast and massively convenient – there’s no need to carry around bulky wallets filled with coins.

“For example, in Sweden, over a third of people either don’t use cash anymore, or at most, make just one payment a year using it. The UK will follow a similar path as people become more and more comfortable without cash and coins in their pockets.”

Aside from aiding people in the streets receive donations, Greater Change also has a number of attractive features. These include the fact that donations go into an account which is managed by a case worker, who ensures the money is spent on agreed targets. Also, when an individual scans the barcode to make a donation, a profile of the homeless person appears so you can learn about the person, what they used to do, and how they became homeless.

The project is currently limited to Oxford itself but given the current path taken by Britain, similar initiatives to Greater Change will be needed all over the country in order to aid disadvantaged groups make the transition to cashlessness.


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