New services at local Post Offices will allow elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating people greater access to cash to pay for deliveries or reimburse helpful neighbours, family and friends.
Those unable to leave their homes and with limited access to their finances can call up their bank, building society or credit union and order cash to be collected from the local Post Office, which is now offering extra services because of coronavirus.
Financial institutions will send a one-time voucher via text to a mobile phone, email or through the post on request, which customers can use to redeem cash at a Post Office branch. The cash can also be collected by a trusted helper or carer. Similar vouchers can be ordered to allow cheques to be cashed too.
It is especially useful for elderly or self isolating individuals who do not use or have access to online banking and means they can pay back local suppliers or helpers dropping off food deliveries and other essentials without leaving the house.
It will also benefit those living in rural communities, where bank branches are becoming increasingly sparse. Following a string of local bank branch closures, the Post Office now has more than 11,500 local branches, more than the number of bank and building society branches combined.
Use of cash machines has halved during the coronavirus outbreak, according to Link, the main cash machine network, with reduced footfall making already under-strain free cash machines even less financially viable for businesses that provide them.
Over the past year alone more than 10pc of free-to-use cash machines have closed, according to the Access to Cash Review. A quarter of Britain’s cash machines now charge, up from fewer than 1 in 10 last year.
But more than 97pc of the population lives within three miles of a Post Office branch, which does not charge for cash withdrawals from its ATM machines. Branches are still open during the Covid-19 lockdown, although some are operating reduced opening hours and smaller franchises may close for self-isolation or if the sub-post master becomes ill.
Martin Kearsley of the Post Office said being able to access cash was still an absolute necessity for many and asked people using the enhanced service to be mindful of social distancing guidelines, suggesting cheques and cash could be put through letterboxes to minimise contact.