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Digital and financial exclusion

Understanding the UK context

The Santander Foundation commissioned NPC to undertake research into digital and financial exclusion in the UK.  

In this report, we explore the nature of digital and financial exclusion today, building a picture of its drivers and how it affects different groups within our society. Alongside this, we explore potential responses to these issues.  We also explore the landscape of support for work addressing digital and financial exclusion, as well as inequalities in funding patterns, past and present, to help the Foundation to understand where it might best be situated as a funder in this space. 

Key findings

The nature of digital and financial exclusion today:

  • There are a range of different drivers of digital and financial exclusion, many of which are interconnected and reflective of poverty itself. In the current cost-of-living crisis, data and device poverty are growing. Many individuals are simply unable to save or balance their budget, leading to rising debt. This temporary exclusion is growing and could lead to deeper structural exclusion, as individuals become caught in a loop of poverty and
  • There are different levels of digital and financial exclusion. For some, barriers centre around access to data, devices, or low-cost credit. More entrenched exclusion is likely to include other barriers, such as literacy or language skills, a lack of trust or confidence, or awareness and knowledge or skills. These are complex issues and connect to other aspects of social exclusion, such as isolation or a lack of mobility.
  • Disabled individuals and refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers often experience multiple barriers to both digital and financial inclusion. Amongst individuals with complex disabilities, these can include a lack of financial autonomy or control, or low literacy and numeracy. Recent arrivals to the UK may lack trust in, or awareness of, financial systems. They may also lack the language skills to access services, and experience destitution and isolation, contributing to deeper exclusion.
  • Digital and financial exclusion overlap in a range of ways, most directly through online banking, obtaining credit to purchase devices, or getting the best deals on financial products. However, practitioners and individuals with lived experience tend to see the intersection as broader—it can mean access to the benefits system, or getting the best deals on a range of products, which can only be found online. This breadth is important for engaging individuals in support.


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