How did we select these pilots?
We opened up applications to any community in the United Kingdom who had identified a challenge with supporting consumers or businesses with access to cash. Applications were individually reviewed by an independent board, and nine communities were initially selected to be part of the pilot scheme, and eight were live between April to October 2021. We had some fantastic applications from individuals and groups, all of which had identified a need for access to cash and who shared a passion to make a difference. We selected communities that were different in size, demographic and needs to enable us to pilot different solutions in different types of communities.
Why only eight pilots?
The eight communities selected differed in size, demographic and had different cash needs. This enabled us to trial different solutions in different types of community, but was also a large enough sample size to find out what worked and what didn’t. We believe that there was enough variation in the pilots to enable us to test ideas and be able to recommend whether they could work in other communities.
Why did these pilots end at the end of October 2021?
We wanted to ensure the pilots had enough time to run, allow the communities to use the solutions and to test what worked (and what didn’t). At the same time though, these were pilots and not permanent new services. A six-month time period gave us the opportunity to do this. We reviewed all the solutions throughout the pilot scheme and actively engaged the solution providers and the communities with the findings.
However, the Bank Hubs were so popular that they have been extended until at least April 2023. Cashback without purchase was also successful, so the decision was made mid-pilot to roll this out nationally, when the government changed the legislation to enable it.
Why did different communities have different services on offer?
Each community was unique and had individual needs. We knew that there would be no single answer for every community. The solutions were aimed at improving all aspects of access to cash so were different depending on the need.
Even though some communities may have had similar needs, we had different solutions available to test. We wanted to try different ideas in different areas to see which ones worked best and help us understand why, so we could feed this insight back into the access to cash debate.
Are these services going to be rolled out nationally?
Analysing the success of these solutions has allowed us to understand what could work in other communities in the UK. All the parties involved in sponsoring this work (the banks, consumer groups and small business groups) were keen to find solutions that could be rolled out nationally.
The experiences of the pilot communities helped inform the work of the Cash Action Group – supported by the major banks, consumer groups, Post Office and LINK. In December 2021 the Cash Action Group announced a new approach to keeping cash accessible in the UK.
How will you get feedback on what works and what doesn’t?
We analysed the impact of the solutions with help from the providers themselves and from residents and businesses in the community, with the support of a research agency. We tracked the use of each service in detail, and actively engaged with local communities to understand the impact any solution had on their access to cash needs. This analysis is included in the final report of the pilots.
Why aren’t all banks involved in all services?
All the major banks took part in this work, but each bank operates with slightly different rules, structures and IT systems. Where possible, we tried to ensure that all customers of all the major banks could use all of the pilot solutions. Where this was not possible, we worked with the banks to understand what alternative solutions were available for their customers.
Ampthill was originally selected as a pilot site but didn’t become a full pilot. What happened?
As we worked with the local leaders in Ampthill, it became clear that putting the solutions we had identified in place was going to be challenging in the timescales required. We identified the need for a Bank Hub, but after an exhaustive search, couldn’t find a location in central Ampthill of the right size and accessibility which was also affordable. Covid restrictions also made it very hard for the local leaders to progress other solutions.
Does everything close in October?
Although the central funding for the pilots ended in October, we have extended the Bank Hub pilots in Cambuslang and Rochford and these will now run until at least April 2023.
Shrap, Sonect and OneBanks are, all planning to continue to operate their services in these communities. We also supported the national rollout of cashback without purchase, so many retailers offering cashback during the pilots will continue to do so now it has ended.
When will you report on the findings?
The full report of the pilots was published in December 2021.