Helen Martin: Online banking has price to pay

The switch to online banking is tough for the older generation. Picture: PA
The switch to online banking is tough for the older generation. Picture: PA
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I APOLOGISE. Readers are entitled to a new topic every week but sometimes, like a dog licking a wound, I am compelled to return to the same subject again, albeit from a slightly different angle.

No sooner had I vented my anger last week over dodgy bankers fiddling foreign exchange rates when the news came that another nine bank branches are set to close in Edinburgh alone this summer.

I know from regular readers that I am not alone in believing the shift to internet banking is happening far too quickly and will have expensive repercussions for society. Yes, the current elderly generation will be adversely affected but the notion that when they die off the problem will be solved is naïve and preposterous. Subsequent generations will face exactly the same problems regardless of their youthful familiarity with technology. Even IT experts are no more immune to age-related anxiety and dementia than the rest of us, and will be just as overtaken by future techno developments when they hit retiral age.

The abilities currently required to run an internet account are among the first to go in gradual dementia decline – remembering user names and passwords, keying in long account numbers and sort codes.

Internet banking is yet another nail in the coffin of community – local shopkeepers, friendly neighbours, the local newsagent, the local bank and all the other people and places that gave an old person a routine and a reason to go out and have even a brief conversation with a familiar face.

What sets bank branches apart from other high street retail shops who might be moving their business online, or making cutbacks, is that they hold our lives in their hands – our salaries, mortgages, pensions, savings, ability to pay bills, assets and our security.

While branches knew regular customers, neither the internet nor the person in the anonymous call centre is aware that Mrs McTavish is 92 with dementia and isn’t likely to have been shopping in Ann Summers or PC World. How long would it take them to pick up irregularities on her account? How will she get statements or be able to be reassured that her money’s safe – a common anxiety of old age? In fact, how can she communicate with them at all? Not everyone has a trusted family member or wants to hand over Power of Attorney.

The end result is likely to be a greater burden on police, social work departments or support charities, and probably the elderly moving into residential care sooner than necessary which adds to local authority and government spending, and is not the way either wants to see the tide turning.

A bit of political pressure to halt current branch closures until some future strategy is worked out for the elderly and people with other challenges and difficulties, and to have the banks sign up to somehow providing the duty of care we used to expect and still need, is long overdue.

And if they can’t or won’t? The rest of us will be forced to pay for their callous and greedy “streamlining” cuts and, as always, they’ll be laughing all the way to the . . . website.

Fifa claims are no surprise but show will go on

FOOTBALL is not my thing, a noisy waste of grass. Yet I understand that for some people, even within my own extended family, it is on a par with religion. Ecstasy and heartbreak rest on the trajectory of a ball.

So what I know about the “wonderful” game could be etched on a cat’s whisker, being not nearly enough to fill the back of a postage stamp. I couldn’t tell you who plays for which team, even in Scotland, and couldn’t care less.

Yet even I thought Fifa, with its bizarre and questionable decisions on where to host the World Cup, was so corrupt it made Al Capone look like a choirboy.

Britain Wins Second World War would have been marginally more surprising than the headlines over seven Fifa officials being arrested on suspicion of a £100 million bribery and corruption racket.

Nor am I holding my breath that anything will change as a result. I honestly believe football fans could be shown live footage of Sepp Blatter, pictured, roasting babies on a spit and would still want the World Cup to go ahead.

A STEP TOO FAR

A STUDY shows fewer women make it to the top than men because they won’t trade their personal lives to work 24/7 and network and socialise with people they don’t like. Quite right, no job’s worth

that.

Leave character building to parents

SOME things make me very glad that Scotland’s education system stands apart from England’s.

A study by Birmingham University revealed that eight out of ten teachers believe schools focusing on academic achievement hinder the child’s “character development”, while a visiting professor at King’s College said rubbers were the “instrument of the devil” and children should celebrate rather than feel bad about wrong answers.

Oh for the days when teachers were content to mind their own business, get on with lessons and leave character, moral fibre and resilience to genetics and parenting.

With the greatest respect for some very talented teachers, I wouldn’t necessarily assume their career or training made them especially qualified to instil courage, perseverance or grit in pupils’ characters, all traits more likely to be discovered and learned in life outside school.