Camilla Turner | The Telegraph | Source URL
Homeless people are wearing barcodes around their necks in an attempt to increase donations in a cashless society, under an Oxford University backed initiative.
A new social innovation project, called Greater Change, hands homeless people a QR code, similar to the kind issued for online tickets.
Passersby who wish to give money – but who may not have any change in their pocket – can scan the code using their smart phone, and make an online payment to the person.
The donation goes into an account which is managed by a case worker who ensures that the money is spent on agreed targets, such as saving for a rental deposit or a new passport.
“The problem we’re trying to solve here is that we live in an increasingly cashless society and as well as this when people give they worry about what this money might be spent on,” Alex McCallion, founder of Greater Change, told the BBC.
“So the solution we’ve come up with is a giving mechanism through your smart phone with a restrictive fund.”
When you scan the barcode on your smartphone, a profile of the homeless person appears. This tells you more about their circumstances, such as how they became homeless or what their job used to be.
The project, which is being trialled in Oxford, is supported by Oxford University Innovation and Oxford’s Said Business School.
Neil Coyle MP, the Labour co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness, said: “Necessity has again become the mother of invention and now there is an app to try and help generate more public donations to homeless people.
“This intervention should not be necessary but with a Government ignoring the scale of the problem, any extra donations may help homeless people directly.”
He added that homelessness has escalated in recent years, and the app will not help address the broader issues such as a lack of drug and alcohol cessation programmes, affordable housing and mental health care.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s encouraging to see that people want to help rough sleepers, but the bigger picture here is that neither rough sleeping nor any form of homelessness should be an issue in Britain today.”
The magazine, which is sold by homeless people, has suffered as a result of people walking up and down Britain’s high streets without coins and notes in their pockets, as they now rely on cards and mobile phones for payments.
Russell Blackman, the Big Issue’s managing director, said earlier this year that they are looking into ways to roll out cashless payments to all its vendors.
“It is vital that we develop the right contactless solution for our vendors, ensuring that they can get instant access to their funds, even if they don’t have their own bank account due to a lack of permanent address,” he said.