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Age Action

Concern raised for vulnerable older people after Bank of Ireland closes 88 branches

An Age Action survey found that some 65% of people over the age of 65 experience “digital exclusion”.

THE CLOSURE OF more than one-third of Bank of Ireland branches today has raised concerns about the impact it will have on older people, particularly those in rural Ireland.

Age Action said older people who don’t bank online are now in a vulnerable position if their nearest branch was among those who shut their doors today due to a downsizing of Bank of Ireland’s network announced in March.

“Many older people want to be online, but it’s not possible for everybody. Some people can’t afford digital devices, and of course, many people around rural Ireland where the banks are closing don’t have broadband,” Dr Nat O Connor, Senior Public Affairs and Policy Specialist at Age Action, told TheJournal.

“People value their independence and don’t want to rely on anyone else,” he said, noting that a large proportion of older people lose independence and are required to divulge their private information to others when they are not able to access services themselves. 

“In some cases, people may have their children who will do online banking for them, or they might not have children, or in the worst-case scenario, people are relying on neighbours, or maybe somebody they don’t know. This should raise red flags as this risks leaving older people vulnerable to different types of abuse.

“People want to have control over their own affairs,” he added. 

A recent survey carried out by Age Action found that some 65% of people over the age of 65 experience “digital exclusion” in Ireland – meaning that they are not using the internet or they lack the digital devices or necessary skills to navigate the internet safely, and therefore are limited in their ability to access public services online.

Ahead of Tuesday’s budget, Age Action has been calling for the creation of a Communications Allowance to help cover the cost of access to the internet for people on low fixed incomes.

Bank of Ireland has agreed to a partnership with An Post which will offer customers a range of banking services at 923 locations. These services will include the withdrawal of cash and lodgement of both cash and cheques. You can find your local Post Office here.

However, the changes still mean some Bank of Ireland customers will have to travel significant distances to carry out financial transactions in person.

Dr O’Connor says many older people face another barrier in this instance if they don’t drive or have access to public transport:

Suddenly you’re having to travel 10 to 30 kilometres to get to a bank and then you have to face long queues. 

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