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Accessible Banking

Author: Meike Beckford

In February 2014, Dosh launched a report on access to banking for people with a learning disability. The report highlighted some of the key issues people face when trying to do something as seemingly simple as opening a bank account or making a payment.

Dosh is a non-profit organisation that supports people with a learning disability to be independent and in control of their money. Dosh supports nearly 400 people and works in partnership with over 30 care and support providers and Local Authorities. In addition to directly supporting individuals with their money, Dosh also leads development and pilot projects in the care and support sector, as well as original research work such as this banking report.

Written with support from the banking sector, including the British Bankers’ Association, and other third sector organisations, the Dosh report examines the source of difficulties and sets out ways they can be tackled in partnership. 

We are keen to engage with the banking sector to further their efforts in making banking accessible for everyone. We have already begun work with the British Bankers’ Association, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and the Financial Conduct Authority to develop joint solutions and we look forward to working with others in the sector in the future.

It is important that people with a learning disability have the opportunity to be independent, and they receive the right support to do this. We feel we can use our experience to improve access to banking and make a real difference in people’s lives.

The report explores how some current laws and regulations make it very difficult for people with a learning disability to open an account. It also looks into how easy it is for people to get support in banks, prove their identity and read the complex information available.

It looks in particular at four issues:

  1. Mental capacity
  2. Proof of identity
  3. Access to money
  4. Consistency of service and information

Our financial advocates shared stories of how support can work well and what happens when it goes wrong. This included 2 friends with a learning disability who had never had their own account but were feeling more confident in managing some of their own money. They opened an account at their local building society and with support from the branch staff and their own support team, they are now able to take money out regularly and spend it in the way they want. This is a great result for them and puts them in control of their money and their social lives.

Unfortunately it does not always work out that way and we knew a gentleman whose account was frozen when he became ill and couldn’t get to the branch for a bit. Although his mental capacity had not changed, he was not given the support he needed to look at other ways to access his money. He was left without his account and money for months.

You can read these and other stories in the report

The report presents 5 recommendations to tackle these issues:

  1. Further research with people with a learning disability
  2. A guide for banks on how to support people with different needs
  3. Training for banks on mental capacity, support and different ways to prove identity
  4. Easy read information
  5. A guide for people with a learning disability on how to access banking

Dosh developed this guide with other support providers and members of the banking sector. Its aim is to give people with a learning disability, their families and supporters the information they need to access banking. 

Rather than just waiting for banks to change their practices, we wanted to empower individuals and families to get access to banking and get what they need now. We released the guide in March and have shared it widely with individuals, families and professionals.

It includes:

  • information about bank accounts
  • what banks should be doing
  • how to get support with banking (including different types of account)
  • how to deal with problems
  • information about banking laws 
  • information about equality and mental capacity laws
  • making decisions, mental capacity and assessments

It was accompanied by a small help sheet that people can pop in their pockets before they go to the bank. This reminds people what to do, what to ask for and how to deal with problems.

The report, guide and help sheet are all available for free on our website and we want to share them as widely as we can.

Our banking project lays the foundations for a shared approach to making banking more accessible across all disabilities and excluded groups. Dosh is committed to leading a collaboration which creates mutual understanding and practical solutions to promote financial inclusion for all.

We are continuing to work with the banking sector to develop solutions, including looking at new accounts and other options that meet people’s banking and support needs. The most important thing is that all service providers, including banks, recognise and practices the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and are open and adaptable to each person they meet.

Read the report and guide here.

Further information is available from the Dosh website: www.dosh.org


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Accessible Banking © Meike Beckford 2015.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.