Business

Bankrupts in 'banking exclusion' says Citizens Advice

Cash, cards and bills
Image caption Most bank accounts offer some access to credit

People going through bankruptcy are facing financial exclusion from banks, according to an advice service.

Only two out of 17 banks allowed the recently bankrupt to open a basic bank account, a Citizens Advice report found.

These accounts allow people to have income or benefits paid in, and for bills to be paid from it by direct debit.

However, such accounts offer no access to credit and no cheque book.

Citizens Advice said there was no legal reason for people going through a bankruptcy not to have access to such an account.

'Vulnerable'

The charity said that, as a result, people were forced to carry cash, were unable to get direct debit discounts on their bills, and faced job losses because there was no account for an employer to pay wages into.

"Great progress has been made in improving access to bank accounts for many groups who were previously financially excluded, said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

But she added there are still groups, such as undischarged bankrupts - people facing the onerous restrictions of bankruptcy - who struggled to open even a basic bank account.

"Most people take having a bank account for granted, but without access to one, basic tasks such as receiving wages or benefits and paying bills can become huge and costly obstacles to overcome, particularly for people who are often at a vulnerable point in their lives. Just because someone is made bankrupt it does not mean their life stops."

Credit unions and the Post Office do offer services for people going through bankruptcy.

A spokesman for the British Bankers' Association (BBA) said that it was a commercial decision for each individual bank as to whether they offered these accounts.

However, there were some risk issues for banks, he added as well as potential issues regarding undischarged bankrupts' access to lump sums that could come into the account.

The BBA said it would happily work with voluntary organisations and advice groups to find common ground on the subject.

The Insolvency Service said that there were 74,605 new bankruptcy cases in England and Wales in 2009, with the highest rate in the South West of England.

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