Managing one’s finances and having the ability to withdraw cash can play a significant role in achieving these objectives. But with banks and building societies continuing to close branches, particularly in rural areas, is the era of online banking making it harder for brain injury survivors to manage their money?
Change can cast a shadow over daily life after brain injury, with anxiety about disruption to routine, difficulty adapting to change, problems learning new ways and even a threat to independent living. Here, we look at what help is available when your local branch closes.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show nearly 6,000 local branches have shut since 2010, a fall of a third. No longer just a place to send parcels and buy stamps, the Post Office – and its mobile service – is now the financial hub of many high streets.
You can operate accounts from nearly 30 banks and building societies at the Post Office, whether it’s to withdraw cash, make a deposit or check your balance. If your local bank or building society branch closes, you may still be able to keep your existing accounts and access them by visiting the Post Office.
If you are told that your local bank or building society branch is going to close, try not to worry. There is help and support available.
The most important step is to make sure your bank or building society is aware of your particular circumstances and needs, if they are not already. Ask a family member or trusted friend to help you make an appointment at your local branch and perhaps also accompany you to meet the staff. Showing the staff your Headway Brain Injury Identity Card can be a useful way to begin the conversation.
Practical help from your bank or building society
Documents: Statements, letters and other documents can be requested in a range of formats, including large print, audio documents or printed on coloured paper to make them easier to read.
Payment cards: Many banks and building societies offer cards in high-contrast colours to make it easier to see and read the text. Others feature a bright stripe and arrow to show which edge of the card you insert into a cash machine or card reader, while others have a notch to let you feel which end to use.
Cheques: Cheque templates fit over your cheque book pages and highlight the areas you need to fill in. Large print cheque books are also available from some banks.
Signing your name: Signature stamps are useful if you have difficulty signing your name, or have an inconsistent signature. If you can’t provide a signature, your bank or building society could give you an ID verification letter. This allows you to use a debit or credit card without a PIN or signature.
Help when you visit your branch: If you need to visit your branch, you can ask for a longer appointment time. Many branches will be able to arrange for your appointment to take place in a private and quiet meeting room. If you have a support worker, they are welcome to come to your appointment with you.
If you can’t visit your branch: In some cases, some banks and building societies may be able to offer appointments in your own home visits or in other settings such as hospital or residential care.
Adam and Janet’s story
Janet contacted Headway because she was worried about how her son Adam would manage his money safely when his local bank branch was listed for closure.
Adam has an acquired brain injury which has left him with communication and memory problems, although he is proud of his ability to live independently. Adam can be very trusting and lacks insight into how his brain injury affects him, which makes him vulnerable.
For several years, Adam has relied heavily on his local bank branch for help managing his money. To help keep him safe, Adam visits his bank branch almost every day and the members of staff issue him with small amounts of cash so he can do his shopping at the nearby supermarket.
The members of staff at the bank have Janet’s phone number and call her if there are any problems on his account or if they do not see him for a few days. Their support really helps Adam to live independently.
When Janet and Adam heard that his bank branch was going to close, they were both very worried about how Adam would be able to manage his money in future and how he would stay safe.
The bank account Adam uses can be operated through the Post Office. Workers from the bank have accompanied Adam to the local post office, just down the road. They have introduced him to the staff there to help make sure he can continue to have access to cash safely.
Adam will now need to have a card to operate his account. This does concern Janet, but if having to use a card becomes a problem the bank’s community team is on hand to provide additional support.
It will take time before Janet’s fears are completely put to rest, as any change in Adam’s routine is a cause for concern. It will also take time for Adam to feel as safe and comfortable with the Post Office staff as the staff at the bank, but the team has been very welcoming and so far, so good.
* Names have been changed.