The launch of a new initiative from UK Finance, which aims to help local communities to identify and secure appropriate access to cash and payment services, has been welcomed by the ACS.

The Community Access to Cash Initiative will provide communities with the opportunity to report gaps in cash provision through their elected officials. The initiative will provide grant support and industry guidance to local communities to improve access to cash and the adoption of alternative solutions where an ATM is not appropriate or required.

The initiative seeks to progress work on digital payment alternatives, driving improved local cash recycling, by supporting cashback initiatives, and improving awareness of (and access to) existing cash channels.

Applications will be taken via the Link website from 31 October to January 2020, with decisions on grants made by a UK Finance Award Committee in March 2020.

The 2019 Local Shop Report from the ACS shows that 62% of convenience stores currently offer cash back services and 100% of the stores surveyed accepted cash as a method of payment.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Convenience stores are often the only local source for cash in communities. While cash back is an option for consumers to access cash, it should not be thought of as a like-for-like replacement for a strong national ATM network.

“Offering cash back as a service in store poses a number of challenges for retailers, including the increased risk of robberies and high insurance premiums through more cash being held on the premises.”