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How UK Banks Are Addressing Homelessness

Homeless Man

Dealing with the realities of homelessness means losing access to a lot of things that most of us take for granted. We’re not just talking about warm meals and hot showers, but also the tools that help most of us to get by in society – things like email addresses and bank accounts. This is the basis of a new campaign from HSBC and Shelter, which offers bank accounts to people with no fixed address.

The new service has now provided bank accounts to more than 1000 homeless people across the UK. Access to these accounts means that people who were previously unable to get a job because they didn’t have anywhere to receive their income will now have more options available to them. And, although it is technically possible to receive benefits without a bank account, this will make the process far more straightforward and hassle-free.

Writing about the campaign, the Big Issue spoke to Kendrick, a homeless man who explained how not having access to an account had affected his quest to find work: “It has cost me work many a time and I’m talking about jobs that any man on the street can get – I’m not talking about brain surgery here. If I have to be paid into a bank account and can’t be paid in cash then I have lost the job.”

So why is getting a bank account such a struggle for thousands of homeless people in the UK? In order to ensure that people opening up bank accounts are who they say they are, banks will ask you to prove your identity in various ways when you first set up a new account. This includes showing proof of address, with a document such as a recent bill or tenancy agreement.

The scheme is open to anyone referred by their local HSBC charity partner. The first step is to make a phone call to the relevant partner or get in touch via their website. From there, you can complete a referral form and be assigned a caseworker. This means that HSBC are also able to use the charity’s address, giving them a place to send important paperwork and helping accountholders access the information that they require.

It is expected that those accessing the No Fixed Address scheme would also be receiving support from the relevant charity partner. So it’s important that anybody looking to access an account in this way connects with a charity first. The list is available here.

Most recently, HSBC have partnered with Stonewall Housing to offer support for LGBTQ+ people who are experiencing homelessness. They have also pledged to continue increasing the number of accounts made available through this scheme, ensuring that even more people can have the support of our financial system.

Speaking about the scheme Maxine Pritchard, head of financial inclusion and vulnerability at HSBC UK, said: “Without a bank account, people can’t receive benefits which means they can become trapped in their current situation. That just simply isn’t fair.”

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