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Homeless bank closes

November 01 2015
Could homeless Glaswegians be left without access to their benefits when Grand Central Savings closes?

Homeless people in Glasgow could be left without access to their benefits, according to support workers, after a credit union for homeless people has announced it is to close.

Grand Central Savings, which was first set up by the Big Issue in Glasgow in 2001 and later opened other branches, is understood to have lost important funding.

Though other branches had been set to open in recent years, they have not done so, and their branch in Greenock, which had over 1,400 customers, closed earlier this year because the backer said it was no longer good “value”.

The bank in Glasgow, which is also understood to have tens of hundreds of customers, offered basic banking services for financially excluded people.

Support workers were able to refer homeless people to the service even when they had neither fixed address nor photographic ID.

While all existing customers will be offered a bank account with the Bank of Scotland, this will not be open to newly homeless people, who are often unable to access mainstream banks.

A letter sent too all customers in October said: “Grand Central Savings will be closing on 30th November 2015. Till then it will be business as usual. Your money is safe and you can continue to access your account until then.

“This means, however, that we cannot open any new accounts or add a new authorised person to your account.”

Angela Vance, support worker at the Lodging House Mission, said that the news was extremely concerning, especially with the anticipated roll-out of Universal Credit.

“I referred service users to Grand Central Savings – I’d call up and send them with a letter introducing them,” she said.

“That was the great thing about Grand Central Savings. As long as the guys were known to us, they would be happy to accept them.

“The big problem is going to be when Universal Credit comes in and everybody must have a bank account to get benefits.

“There is a big, big need for it and that’s only going to increase in the future, so I can’t understand why there funding has been pulled.

Vance claimed that the closure would hit the most excluded hardest. “I thought it was a fantastic service for financially excluded people who didn’t have an address or the required ID,” she added.

“It’s a big blow to the vulnerable groups who aren’t able to access this any more.”