Community Forum - February 2022

Bank of England Executive Director of Payments, Victoria Cleland, shares her experience of a recent Community Forum event held in partnership with the Royal Mencap Society and affiliated Network Partners. Mencap strive to make the UK the best place in the world for people with a learning disability to live happy and healthy lives. 

Victoria Cleland’s Community Forum summary 

In February 2022, I led a virtual Community Forum with staff from the Royal Mencap Society and members with a learning disability from Network Partner organisations from across England and Northern Ireland.

If you are not familiar with Mencap, they are a fantastic charity that aims to improve the lives of those with a learning disability across the UK.  They work to ensure that these people have the same rights and equal opportunities to everyone else. Mencap’s input can range from providing advice and support to full-time care, depending on the needs of the individual and their learning disability.

It was my first Community Forum and I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect. I shouldn’t have been: it was a fascinating session with a really engaging group of people (and some very inquisitive pets). 

The session focused on two topics, cash and employment.  

A strong message was that the preference for using cash, card or electronic payments was a very individual choice and highly dependent on the circumstances of the individual and the support they have available. For some attendees, cash was seen as a useful tool to help them manage their money and provide independence when budgeting. For others, using cash was difficult without support available, particularly for checking change and keeping cash secure. 

Many attendees were comfortable using cards and electronic payments and felt this was preferable to cash but did express concerns around contactless limits being increased and for some remembering a PIN numbers was a barrier to using card payments and ATMs.  A few attendees had experienced issues with bank branches closing and having to travel further to access cash and support workers commented that increased travel time to access cash ate into the already limited support time that was available. Technological advances could help here. For example, some accounts now provide the ability to set limits and track payments. 

Our discussion on employment opportunities was more muted sadly - I fear that some attendees just did not view formal employment as a viable option for them.  There were though some positive stories from roles in retail, cleaning and charity work. Those in formal employment jobs felt that they had benefited enormously from support from Mencap and other charities when applying for jobs.

The importance of disability awareness training in organisations was highlighted as key to improving accessibility to jobs. Ensuring that application forms and interviews are accessible are key for employers to ensure they are inclusive. Work trials were also felt to be more suitable and accessible than interviews for individuals with learning disabilities. I’m pleased that the Bank of England continues to be a member of the Disability Confident scheme. This ensures that job applications for roles at the Bank of England who share their disability with us and meet the minimum requirements of the job description are fast-tracked to the first stage of assessment.

I really enjoyed the forum and the ability to engage and share ideas with the group. Their insights were a powerful reminder of the dangers of group think and how we can improve our policies and approaches by listening to the views of a diverse set of people. I am looking forward to my next Forum, and hoping it is not virtual this time (though I might miss out on the rather adorable puppies and elegant cat who appeared on screen). 

Interview with Mencap’s Communities Coordinator

Here’s what Becca, Mencap’s Communities Coordinator, had to say after attending the forum.

‘It was really interesting to hear and learn about what the Bank of England do at the Community Forum with other Mencap groups. It was good to hear about different peoples experiences of using cash, cards and new technology to pay for everything. It was a great opportunity to be honest, money is a hard topic for anyone so it’s good to discuss these things.’

What did you expect from the community forum? 

I didn’t have any expectations because it was the first ever forum between the Bank of England and Mencap. I was hoping for a good turnout which there was and everyone was willing to have their opinions. For me that showed that people want to talk about it and start an overall discussion with the Bank of England. 

What did you think about the discussion areas – access to cash and employment?

I thought the areas that were spoken about in the forum was a good starting point because they are two big topics that I don’t think get spoken about enough when it comes to people with a learning disability. I do think picking up these two topics in the future would be good. 

Why are these discussion opportunities important?

I think these discussions are important because people with a learning disability our voices are not always heard and sometimes will settle for second best because someone might not talk through the different options with them. I think if a big leading company takes the lead and sets a good example other companies might follow and make the world for people with a learning disability a better, easier place. 

How did you feel about sharing your thoughts and experiences at the forum with Victoria?

At first I has a bit worried because of her position in the Bank of England but it didn’t take long for me to feel like she cared and wanted to make a difference, some people don’t follow their actions, she seemed very passionate about people with a learning disability and breaking down barriers with one of the many things that people with a learning disability face. 

Feedback from a representative of East Kent Mencap

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This page was last updated 29 December 2023