Published on 06 April 2017 04:00 PM
Age Scotland is calling on Scotland’s banks to urgently review the services they provide to local communities in the aftermath of branch closures, particularly in rural and remote areas.
The call comes in the wake of the story of Sandra Borthwick, whose local RBS branch in Dalmellington, Ayrshire was closed, to be replaced by a twice-weekly mobile banking van that does not have disabled access. The mobile vans do not have ramps, and as a wheelchair user, Sandra is unable to access the bank. She is made to wait in a car park, until the queue in the van has cleared before being served by bank staff, in the car park.
An RBS customer in Cumnock who wants to do their banking in a bank and not a mobile branch, or who wants to do their banking on a day when the mobile van is not visiting, will now have to travel to Ayr or Kilmarnock.
Age Scotland is urging RBS to review their operations to ensure respect and high quality customer service is given to all customers. The charity is proposing banks work together to mitigate the negative effects of bank closures and take the following steps:
- Joint bank branches – banks should consider the concept of shared branches for smaller communities, suburbs and rural areas. These have the potential to provide bank-style service where footfall is too low to support individually branded branches.
- Telebanking – a ‘smart’ ATM with live on-screen access to customer service personnel
- Enhanced use of the Post Office – while the Post Office network provides a welcome alternative in many cases, with older people being a significant customer base, some post offices will need to be upgraded in terms of facilities and staff training for this solution to work properly and to provide outreach and remote services.
- Mobile branches – Mobile branches can provide a banking lifeline to customers living in rural areas, however they must be designed appropriately for all customers, including those with disabilities, and all weathers, and are open for a sufficient amount of time at each location.
Keith Robson, Age Scotland Chief Executive, commented:
“The service that Sandra has been shown by the Royal Bank of Scotland, has been found wanting. As banks have closed local branches they have cut off people who are not able to use internet banking. To then make the mobile bank vans inaccessible to people with mobility issues is a further step away from their claim to be Scotland’s most helpful bank.
“We’re urging Scotland’s banks to think outside the box and work together to mitigate the negative impacts of local bank closures. Banks, just like libraries and post offices are vital services in our communities, they provide people with information, they encourage older people to get out and about and they help tackle loneliness and isolation. The fact that many of them are closing down will disadvantage many older people.
“Joint bank branches, for example, would allow people to continue banking face to face in areas with low footfall, where individually branded branches are deemed unsustainable.”
Jeane Freeman MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley said:
"I'm delighted that an important campaigning organisation like Age Scotland is adding its voice to the calls for the Royal Bank of Scotland to treat its customers with the dignity and respect they deserve.
“The ongoing bank closures in my constituency mean that it will be more difficult for older and frail customers to use the banking services they need. The Royal Bank of Scotland need to come up with a better solution than mobile banks which are inaccessible."
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