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Banks are urged to be fair to bankrupts.

BANKS are being urged to treat people who have gone bankrupt fairly and give them access to a basic account.

Charity Citizens Advice said the majority of banks were refusing to let undischarged bankrupts open even a basic bank account, that did not have a credit facility, despite there being no legal justification for this.

It said only two out of the 17 banks and building societies that offer basic bank accounts would allow people who were going through bankruptcy to open one.

The charity said the banks' stance increased financial exclusion for bankrupts and urged them to make the accounts more widely available.

There was a 249% jump in the number of people going bankrupt between 2000 and 2009.

The most common reason people gave for going bankrupt was that they had suffered an unexpected change in their circumstances, such as job loss, illness or an accident or relationship breakdown.

Citizens Advice said denying people who were bankrupt a basic bank account was demoralising and impractical, and also made it extremely difficult for them to take control of their finances and make a fresh start.

It said people who did not have an account may have to use the accounts of friends and family, leading to dependence and their having to carry around large amounts of cash.

It also prevented them from benefiting from the discounts available through paying bills by direct debit or by buying goods and services online.

In the most extreme cases, it could stop people getting a job or lead to them losing their job, because some employers will only pay wages into a bank account.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Great progress has been made in improving access to bank accounts for many groups who were previously financially excluded, yet there are still groups, such as undischarged bankrupts, who struggle 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," she added.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 14, 2010
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