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June 22, 2021

Banks advised to set up branches for differently abled persons

 
June 22, 2021

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday asked banks to ensure provision of all necessary physical and technological infrastructure and services to enhance financial inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Unveiling a new policy, the SBP asked banks to offer products and services catering to the special needs of all categories of PWDs, including the physically handicapped, visually impaired and those with hearing and speech disabilities.

On the occasion, President of Pakistan Arif Alvi said the launch of the new policy will contribute significantly in alleviating the difficulties faced by PWDs, which will enhance their confidence in the financial system significantly. All relevant stakeholders will continue to collaborate on a regular basis to keep the momentum of providing improved infrastructure, service delivery, use of innovative technologies and availability of financing at an affordable cost, Alvi said.

Banks are asked to ensure the availability of essential forms and documents in braille, sign language interpretation services and ramps at the entrances of their branches and auto teller machine vestibules.

The policy also entails establishment of a dedicated network of model branches across the country to provide all necessary physical and technological infrastructure and services at one place for PWDs.

The SBP wants banks to develop the policy framework for PWDs by 30 September, 2021. Banks are also required to establish a minimum number of model branches by 31 March, 2022.

The SBP’s instructions require the board of directors of banks to approve a policy and strategy framework for the financial inclusion of PWDs, while management will ensure its implementation.

SBP Governor Reza Baqir said the central will work with banks to support the goal that PWDs have equal access and opportunity to participate in economic activities. He emphasised that banks should design and deliver products and services that cater to the special needs of PWDs and make physical and assistive technological infrastructure available for their facilitation.

“The importance of respectful and empathetic behaviour towards PWDs has been given prominent attention and banks have been asked to create awareness and train their employees in serving customers with PWDs,” the SBP said in a statement. “SBP’s policy places special emphasis on giving priority, special assistance, and care to this vulnerable segment of society in order to increase their financial inclusion.” Developed in collaboration with banks and non-government organisations, the policy further requires banks to meet prescribed job quota for PWDs and align human resource policies and practices to cater to their specific needs throughout the career cycle.

This covers recruitment, retention, capacity building, and career development in addition to conventional HR practices. “In order to encourage female PWDs, the job quota for PWDs at banks shall ensure at least a 25 percent share for women with disabilities.

Moreover, while designing products and services, the banks shall ensure focused and efficient provision of banking facilities to female PWDs,” said the SBP. Baqir said promotion of diversity and inclusion is an important pillar of SBP’s overall policy framework that aims at deepening of the financial system for achieving broad based sustainable growth and development.

The policy initiative aims at improving financial independence for PWDs by improving access to banking services as well as providing opportunities to contribute as bank employees. Arif Usmani, president of NBP reiterated the banking sector’s full commitment in supporting the financial inclusion of PWDs.