Despite the fact that there is over £80 billion worth of cash in circulation right now — more than double than a decade ago — consumer spending habits have shifted in recent years from reliance on coins to the practicalities of plastic.
Across the UK, the use of notes and coins has dropped from 55% of payments in 2011 to 15% last year, meaning that although the amount of money in circulation has increased, its utility appears to be dwindling.
One driver has been associated to the closure of cash machines. In August 2021, a Which? consumer group reported that around 8,000 ATMs had been removed in the previous 18 months, equating to a fall of around 13%. Banks too are decreasing their high-street footprint, with LINK reporting that over 200 banks will be shut by the end of the year — making withdrawing cash a lot harder, especially for people in more rural communities.
Even the Big Issue no longer relies exclusively on cash. Although coins are still accepted, the over 1,000 UK magazine sellers are also equipped to accept contactless payments, which has been attributed to a 35% rise in magazine sales.
Despite this increase however, rough sleepers and homeless people are not sharing that success. The difficulty that has come with accessibility means that people are holding onto spare change. Combined with the surge in card payments as a result of the covid-pandemic, this has put homeless people who rely on spare change to pay for food, drink and shelter, at a severe disadvantage.
So, what solutions and options are there for people who need support that they can no longer get from cash?
Billy Chip – Delivering Kindness
If you’re lucky enough to live in the City of Bristol (or surrounding areas such as Bath and Gloucester) and you would like to support the homeless but don’t ever carry cash, then take a look at the Billy Chip.
The cash alternative can be redeemed in coffee shops or takeaways for food and drink, and can be purchased in one of the registered Billy Chip outlets, or for those wishing to donate rather than hand the chips out themselves, they can be bought online with the charity distributing them on behalf of the donor.
TAP for Bristol
Another Bristol-based initiative is the TAP for Bristol machines dotted around the city. The donation points are located in the windows of businesses and on contactless devices in offices, cafés and bars, offering a fast, simple and secure donation of £3 per “tap” when paying by contactless credit or debit card.
Donations are also accepted online, with all money raised divided equally between Caring in Bristol’s homelessness prevention work and small grants are given to other organisations working with those experiencing homelessness, such as Second Step and St Mungo’s.
Since 2018, TAP for Bristol has donated £25,000 to the causes, which has helped to support those who have struggled with rent payments and managing bills throughout the pandemic.
TAP for Bristol isn’t the only initiative of its kind however; there is also a TAP for London, with 100 contactless donation points across the city, also at the cost of £3, to support four brilliant charities who are teaming up with the Mayor of London to help young people without a home.
These options are all fantastic alternatives when you don’t carry cash but would still like to give to those struggling with payments of shelter. Whether you’re giving food and drink through the Billy Chip or donating to TAP, these secure and supportive methods of helping others can be a lifeline as we head towards a cold and difficult winter in the UK.