The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has pledged to work with a new initiative to help communities retain free access to cash.

Communities across the country are being encouraged to apply to participate in the new Community Access to Cash Pilots which will help to test solutions to local access to cash needs, with the goal of developing scalable solutions which can inform national policy.

The Chair of the Community Access to Cash Pilots Board, Natalie Ceeney, is asking for communities to volunteer to take part in the pilots. Successful applicants will work alongside the payments and customer experts to develop solutions that will help them to adapt to the changing payments landscape.

The aim is to respond to the current challenges through initiatives like helping local shops to give cashbacks, supporting groups to become more comfortable making digital payments or developing solutions to help small businesses continue to bank cash.

The launch of the pilots follows the publication of the 2019 Access to Cash Review, which found that 17% of the UK population rely on cash, with vulnerable communities, including the poor and those in rural areas, at particular risk from reduced access to cash.

Ceeney said: “With the UK becoming an increasingly cashless society we need to make sure that digital payments work for everyone, but we also need to support communities who rely on cash, so that no-one gets left behind.

“We are keen to hear from local communities and work with them to identify solutions, acting as a test bed for the type of measures that could be rolled out more widely. This is an important part of the wider work to ensure communities around the UK retain access to cash where it is most needed.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Convenience stores play an important role in providing access to cash which is primarily delivered through a network of ATMs, and cash is important to convenience stores as it is still the preferred method of payment in the sector. We will engage with these trials to explore other ways for consumers to access their cash.”