The Herald on Sunday
Plans for change New trial to test a ‘coinless’ Scotland angers fundraisers and the homeless
SCOTLAND is trialling a move to take the country coinless – leading to concerns about the impact on fundraisers and the homeless.
The move to coinless is being experimented on in a Stirlingshire town with its aim to take the hassle out of managing coins in shops, seen as a barrier to encouraging the continued use of actual money.
The new pilot service to replace low-denomination coins began in Denny on Thursday, and is one of three locations across the UK that is taking part.
But significant amounts are donated through coins dropped into charity tins at shop checkouts or buckets held by on-street collectors.
Before the pandemic, more than half of all donations to UK charities were made with cash, according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), an industry body.
A separate survey by CAF found that £320 million ($414m) of charitable donations came from loose change in 2018.
And there is concern for the homeless on the streets who rely to a certain extent on generous cash donations.
It has forced fundraisers to adapt their systems to make dealing with digitised, contactless and card payments easier.
Shrap, the company that is behind the Denny pilot, makes use of an app which it says takes the hassle out of accepting cash.
Its vision is “that you never need to handle coins again”.
But it says it does not want the country to go fully cashless – just coinless.
The three-year-old Dorset company says in its PR material that “by storing a digital ‘float’ on Shrap, change can be given to customers through the service with no need to handle coins’.”
It says: “Shrap enables customers to go coinless, not cashless, and for businesses to continue to accept cash, but without the expense and hassle of coins.”
Shrap goes on: “Cash is at risk in the UK. With a significant reduction in cash use – particularly during the coronavirus pandemic – the cost of maintaining the infrastructure to sort, transport and distribute cash has become unsustainable.” cash in a local shop, the business can give change onto a card. Customers can store their change on the card or app and make small payments to shops and friends, anonymously and for free.
The independent Access to Cash Review in 2019 found that a large proportion of people continues to rely on cash. But the pilots were set up as businesses complained of the rising costs and inconvenience of handling cash.
Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Community Access to Cash Pilots board, backed the coinless trials saying that they will allow businesses to continue accepting cash but without the expense and hassle of handling coins.
“Removing the need for coins in a cash transaction is another step to help us keep cash sustainable,” she said.
“As cash use reduces, we need innovation to keep it viable for those who need it, whether that’s delivering cash to people’s doors or products like Shrap which help retailers and consumers manage their small change.”
To highlight what Shrap calls the “waste” of coins, it hosted a coin exchange event in Denny on Thursday and Friday. People living in the local community were invited to bring in their change jars and exchange their unused coins for money on a Shrap account, which can be spent with local businesses.
BUT while some may find pockets bulging with loose change a burden, for others it is a lifeline. Gavin Yates, chief executive of Homeless Action Scotland, said: “Street begging is a result of poverty and failed social policy. The move towards a more cash-free society will inevitably have an impact for those who seek support from the public on Scotland’s streets. But the real issue for people in this situation is not about cash per se but a society that does not properly support those who are forced into asking for help.”
The Charities Aid Foundation sayd that while there will likely always be a need for face-to-face fundraising events and coins, the Covid crisis will have accelerated digitisation for some charities.
Caroline Mallan, head of external affairs at the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “This experiment could perhaps consider encouraging people to routinely donate some of their new digital spare coins to their favourite causes – making a real difference to the charities that have been there for our communities through the most difficult of times.”
She said the pandemic had meant that charities had started using card readers instead of tins and moved their fundraising online as much as possible, but warned it takes time.
The number of donors making cash donations has subsequently seen a substantial drop-off during the Covd-19 lockdown. According to CAF, cash donations dropped from 34 per cent in March 2020 to 13% the following month.
Michelle Cook, head of Scotland at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said it had become important to provide people with the easiest and most convenient way to donate.
“These changes might be symbolic of wider and probably more long-term change in how people give, and how people use cash more generally.”
The move towards a cash-free society will inevitably have an impact for those who seek support from the public on Scotland’s streets