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Homeless and Without a Bank Account

advice drop-in

We know that people who suffer with Mental Health Problems are more likely to face homelessness and problems with their housing. In a 2017 Mind review of Homelessness Research, we found out that a high proportion of homeless people have mental health problems and people with mental health problems are more likely to be evicted from their home than the general population.

We know that poor mental health can make it harder to cope with housing problems and housing problems can make your mental health worse.

As part of Manchester Volunteer Advice Partnership (MVAP) we run a drop-in service at Manchester City Council’s Homelessness Service. One of the barriers we know our homeless clients experience is being able to set up a bank account. Most high street banks require proof of address to set up a bank account. This is, of course, impossible for people who are homeless and very difficult for people who are sofa-surfing or of No Fixed Abode (NFA).

Here are our tips on how to get a bank account if you are struggling to get proof of address.

  1. Use an Online Bank

Did you know that there are entire banks that exist online? Because these banks do not exist on the high street, most of them do not require proof of address. You simply need to download the app, upload a photo ID and request the card is sent to a ‘care of address’.

Some examples of these online banks include: Monzo, Monese, Sterling, N26.

Another advantage to using these apps is that they usually have a built in budgeting tool. This allows you to keep on track of your spending really easily. Most of these online banks provide customer service through their messaging app- this is great for people who get anxious about calling customer service. One of my favourite functions is that you can automatically freeze your card using the app, this means that if you lose it you can block anyone from using it straight away.

What you will need:

  • A smart phone and access to the internet
  • A photo ID (for example passport from any country, driver’s license, biometric residency permit, or other national identity document)
  • A ‘care of address’ (somewhere safe that you can have your new card posted and where you can collect it)

Who we recommend this for:

  • People who are sofa-surfing, who have no fixed abode or are living in temporary accommodation.
  • People that are confident using a smart phone
  • People who get anxious calling people on the phone
  1. Using benefit award letter for proof of address.

If you have a place to stay but no proof of address, we recommend using your benefit award letter as proof of address. You must then call the DWP and explain that you have no bank account but would like to claim a certain benefit. You will then be invited to attend an interview to verify your identity.

What you will need:

  • Recourse to Public Funds (i.e. you are allowed to claim benefits in the UK)
  • Eligibility for a benefit

Who we recommend this for:

  • Refugees and people new to the UK who have somewhere to live but no proof of address yet
  • People who are already in the process of claiming benefits

Unfortunately many barriers remain for people for accessing bank accounts. Hopefully this guide will be able to help more people.

For more advice about dealing with Housing Problems, visit the Mind website for a step-by-step guide.

Our advice drop-in runs every Monday and Thursday at the Zion Community Resource Centre. See our events calendar for further information.

Written by Lily Huggins, Advice Supervisor, Manchester Mind – Manchester City Council Homelessness Team.