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Big Issue asks banks to help vendors in cashless society

Retail banks and the UK’s financial regulator are being urged to make it easier for homeless vendors to take contactless payments.

The Big Issue Foundation, best known for its namesake magazine, said its sellers needed help to make a living in an increasingly “cashless society”.

Under current rules, vendors who take cashless payments are required to have access to a bank account. But to have an account they must satisfy a host of proof of identity requirements, including a fixed address.

The Big Issue Foundation said that this could pose a huge challenge for homeless people who sell the magazine.

Vendors of the Big Issue must be homeless, sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation, in danger of losing their home or unemployed and facing a financial crisis. Vendors buy the magazine for £1.25 and sell it to the public for £2.50.

The group said it was working with a number of retail banks, which are discussing with the Financial Conduct Authority ways to help develop easier access and basic banking facilities. 

Earlier this month, the Big Issue Foundation and the Swedish payments company iZettle launched an eight-week trial for 20 magazine sellers across the UK to accept payments via contactless technology alongside regular cash payments. However, the vendors all had home addresses.

The Big Issue’s initiative comes after data revealed that cash is no longer the most popular form of payment in the UK. 

Debit cards overtook cash for the first time in 2017 thanks to the growing popularity of contactless payments, according to industry group UK Finance’s annual UK Payment Markets report. 

Russell Blackman, managing director of the Big Issue, said: “Our intention following the trial will be to offer more vendors the opportunity to take contactless payments. 

“iZettle will continue to support this through offering Big Issue sellers a discounted price to purchase a payment device. However, we know it’s not that easy.” 

Mr Blackman added: “There is a lot of work being done in this area across the financial industry and we are actively working with a number of retail banks, who, in turn, are having conversations with the FCA, to help develop easier access, basic banking facilities that will help support more Big Issue sellers get a foot firmly back into mainstream society.” 

The number of homeless people in England and Wales has soared since the financial crisis. About 320,000 people are considered homeless, according to Shelter, the charity.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics said it estimated that almost 600 homeless people had died in England and Wales in 2017, an increase of 24 per cent from five years earlier. 


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