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Sorry, I’ve got no change

In the year 2000, cash made up just over 50% of payments in the UK but come 2020 this number was just 12.4%, a dramatic drop. With the homeless heavily reliant on spare change as a source of income to survive, this has been a particularly damaging change. Some are even predicting the UK to become completely cashless by 2026. This situation, coupled with the sharp rise in rough sleepers since 2014, is only worsening the situation for those on the streets.


The digitalisation of society is leaving the homeless behind, making life harder for those needing our help. It’s harder to get noticed and, therefore, harder to make even a little amount of money. Being homeless is already an awful and exhausting experience, by adding in an increasingly unreliable source of money, only compounds the issue. Whether it be a beggar or a Big Issue seller, less cash means less interaction bringing loneliness and isolation into their lives too.

The fact is that contactless transactions are just easier. You carry less weight, free up space in your wallet, it’s quicker and it’s simpler. It allows you to stay in and do all your shopping from the comfort of your own home. The decline of the high street has, thus, become an effect of this trend as less people are out in town centres spending money. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated this issue further. Lockdowns and social distancing have brought a new way of thinking into the public’s conscience as online shopping and contactless payments are an even bigger part of our lives now. It can seem like an impossible situation to overcome but maybe there is way.


The Big Issue has, in recent years, teamed up with PayPal to offer a contactless payment option to its customers. As a result, sales have increased by 30% through offering this payment method than not. Whilst not every seller can offer this, those that do carry a small PayPal card reader and, in some cases, even a smart phone. Big Issue seller Dave says, “people don’t use cash these days… if they know they can pay cashless they know it’s going to be quick”. Whilst this transition into digital payments has largely increased due to the pandemic, with a growing cashless society it’s an important step in the right direction regardless. In addition, charities are also making this transition. Whether it be 24/7 contactless terminals or volunteers with card machines, charities are receiving unimaginable amounts through this method too.

It’s important to add, however, that this is no silver bullet, as there are still many other factors that people consider when giving money, but this can help hugely. Digitalisation can be very excluding with many feeling it’s totally alien to them. However, with help we can turn this from being excluding to including, making lives easier not harder.

To help those in need, you can make donations to the Clothing Collective here

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