The Timaru Seniors Community Assistance Coordinator is calling on banks to take “more responsibility” for sectors of the community that do not have the skills or technology to transition to the digital system, as banks are running out of checks.
Also, charities in the area that rely on check donations are nervous about the change.
Kiwibank will no longer accept checks at the end of February, ANZ will no longer accept checks in May, Westpac will no longer accept checks as payment from June 25, while BNZ will close in July and ASB will no longer process checks from August 27.
Chris Thomas said that once checks are no longer used in banks in New Zealand, a number of people will face “a major challenge”.
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He applied for funding for a pilot project for seniors with trained volunteers teaching people in their own homes on their own devices to help them function in a checkless society.
He estimated that around 10 percent of the 10,000 over 65s in South Canterbury would need to “hold hands” for a period of time to reinforce new learning and make sure it is not forgotten.
“I think banks should take on more responsibility,” said Thomas.
“It is unfair for banks to drop those who did not have the skills, knowledge or equipment to make the transition.”
He said banks had already closed many regional branches due to the increase in online banking, forcing customers to travel to get help.
The establishment of direct debits is “not foolproof”, since money must be in the account at the right time so that it can be debited, he said.
While six banks were testing regional hubs by the end of this year to counter branch closures and help older people make the switch, their availability and staffing levels were limited, Thomas said.
“Online banking is not really a viable alternative because many elderly people do not have an iPhone or a computer. It’s going to be a fight. “
Thomas said that while there are a number of courses and teaching materials for those who want to learn banking online, they are not suitable for older people with mobility, hearing and vision problems.
He said if the learner received a different digital workshop device than what they had at home, it could confuse them. In addition, the class had to be continuous as it took time to learn something new.
“Some people have family members who help them, but not everyone is helpful.”
Ann Carey, South Canterbury SeniorNet secretary, said some people do not have the option to use a computer or cell phone if their hands are severely arthritic.
She said some people also have no one to trust to teach them.
Carey said SeniorNet offered ongoing support to educate over-50s about technology at their own pace.
But not only the technically disadvantaged are facing major changes with the abolition of checks, charities are also affected.
Cancer Society executive secretary and appointment coordinator Amanda Warren said the loss of checks would have a significant impact.
“Over the years, many of our regular donors have made checks to us, and we have received feedback from a number of elderly people in particular that their last donation will be their last as they no longer have the option to write a check,” said Warren.
She said it was worrying for the organization, but she wasn’t sure how many donors it could lose due to the checks being leaked.
While in the Canterbury-West Coast division, which covers South Canterbury, about 10 percent of donors donated by check, some had switched their donations via eftpos, debit card, credit card or online banking, Warren said.
“As a charity, we rely on donations and bequests to fund our services, so we must try to make up for any shortfalls through other fundraising efforts so that we can continue to support cancer patients in our communities,” she said.
Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Chief Executive Carolyn Cooper said the organization received a mix of checks, online donations and cash.
“I expect we’ll see some impact first as people get used to a life without checks,” said Cooper.
“We like to help people where we can when it comes to making an online donation. Our donation forms and our website contain all the information that people need to make a donation via online banking. “
She said it was possible to use more cash instead.
Tim Hamilton, director of territorial outreach for the Salvation Army, said the organization will continue to do whatever it can to raise funds “to support our work on the front lines.”
As with many charities, Stroke Central New Zealand supporters are mostly over 65 years of age.
“We believe that 80 percent of our donations and membership fees are still received by check and that many of our customers do not currently use online banking.
“This could have a massive impact on our charity and no doubt many other organizations with similar customers will suffer,” said CEO Lee Pownall.
To counteract the potential loss of donations by check, the Hospice South Canterbury has set up a virtual coffee club.
General Manager Peter O’Neill said it encourages donors to donate the cost of a cup of coffee and meet with fellow club members every six months to see how their contributions are making a difference.