Back in 2005 HMP Forest Bank, a prison near Manchester, asked the Co-operative Bank to consider offering prisoners the chance to open a basic bank account. The problem was, you see, many prisoners were being turned away by the High Street banks, who claimed to be rather choosy about who they let bank with them.
This was back in the days before banks were accused of foreign exchange fiddling, LIBOR rate manipulation, money laundering, tax evasion, selling worthless financial products and causing a world-wide slump.
The Co-operative Bank were sympathetic. They were told that having a bank account helps stop prisoners from re-offending. That’s because it’s hard to get a job or rent a flat if you don’t have a bank account. They carried out a bit of research and issued a paper in 2008.
Then the Co-operative Bank launched a scheme in 2010 to encourage prisoners to sign up with them. It generated plenty of decent publicity for the bank as well as plenty of business.
Now, with considerably less publicity (none actually) they have stopped the scheme. Meanwhile we learn from our contacts that Barclays Bank are going one step further- they are closing the accounts of ex-prisoners , even where those prisoners banked with Barclays for years before their offence.
We’d like to think someone from one of the High Street banks will read this, get in touch with us and tell us what’s going on. But we’re not holding our breath.