The Government has teamed up with the Post Office to get cash payments sent directly to the homes of elderly and vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.
It’s an unprecedented step in a bid to fend off extra financial difficulties for disadvantaged people during the pandemic – many of whom are most at risk of financial exclusion if they can’t get their hands on cash.
The National Shielding Service, a working partnershio with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will get in touch with people in England identified as potentially in need to find out if they need payments delivered to them in cash. It’s hoped this will prevent vulnerable people leaving their homes to get notes and coins thus lowering their risk of picking up coronavirus.
Those who do need it are guaranteed the cash by 9pm the following day with the payments sent using Royal Mail Special Delivery.
The new scheme is initially being made available to Post Office Card Account customers – with all 27,000 being contacted to make sure they can access their payments easily and regularly.
Pensions and financial inclusion minister Guy Opperman said: “We’re doing whatever it takes to ensure people are supported through these unprecedented times. This joint initiative enables us to reach out directly to those most likely to need support, and get cash delivered to their door where necessary.
“Thanks to the hard work of DWP and Post Office staff, vulnerable customers can rest assured there is help available if they need it.”
It’s one in a series of measures to keep cash in hands during the public health emergency. Just this week the Post Office took two of its easy access cash initiatives – Fast PACE and Payout Now – to UK banks, building societies and credit unions so customers have more opportunity to access them.
Through Fast PACE, people can arrange for someone else to collect their cheque, cash it at a Post Office and take the cash to the person in isolation.
And Payout Now sees a voucher texted, emailed or posted to a self-isolating person who can share it with someone they trust and enable them to take out cash on their behalf.
Postal affairs minister Paul Scully said vulnerable people “may be self-isolating but they are not alone”.
He added: “This vital service will ensure the Government can get cash to people that need it, without them having to leave their homes. I want to thank postmasters and their teams for their continued hard work to support our communities across the UK.”
With travel abroad ended indefinitely for most people, the Post Office has repurposed part of its foreign exchange business to meet new demand for cash deliveries.
Responding to the news, Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said: “This is an important move that recognises vulnerable people need help to access the cash they rely on to pay for essentials during the coronavirus lockdown.
“The difficulties many people are facing without easy access to cash demonstrates why the government must act swiftly on its promise to legislate to protect the availability of cash for consumers for as long as they need it.”
The Big Issue knows all too well how much vulnerable people rely on cash — that’s why we have been giving our vendors the chance to go contactless on their pitches for some time, prior to the current Covid-19 lockdown. With society increasingly pivoting away from using cash, it is vital that our vendors are not left financially excluded.