At school and disappointed by the personal finance education on offer? Campaign for it, using a toolkit produced by other young people. Focused on the skills and approaches to campaigning, Our Money, Our Future has a lot of good sense about building a team, starting from strengths, co-opting an adult champion and setting objectives.
Including a briefing for teachers, a case study and background information, the material was produced by young people working with the National Children’s Bureau and the Personal Finance Education Group.
Why are the young people on the right celebrating? Because their money skills have just been recognised.
The team of Paige Sparrow, Ryan Gardener, Alex Mayhew and Shannon Mears from ACT in Bridgend in Wales ran a project on practical ways to cut spending, particularly on food, for themselves and other 16-18 year olds at their training centre. Using their slogan, Don’t Buy Posh, Save your Dosh, they set up a value cafe (a three-course meal cost £1.66 per person), cooked a meal for a local community group Mental Health Matters, ran blind tastings, and actively spread the word about shopping and preparing meals on a tight budget.
Their efforts were recognised in April this year when they won the grand final of Money for Life Challenge, a project run by Toynbee Hall in London and other partners around the UK. It is supported by a high-street banking group. As well as developing, practising and sharing life-long money skills, the team also found levels of confidence, teamwork and leadership skills they never knew they had.
This year’s Money for Life challenge is now accepting entries from young people in some form of further education, training or adult or community education. The deal is that a team of learners aged 16 to 24 can apply for a £500 grant to devise novel ways to teach others how to manage money. The young people will have £200 to spend on their money management projects. Their organisation takes the rest as a no-strings grant. Since organisations can have up to ten teams, that suggests a grant of up to £3,000 is theoretically on offer.
Online applications are now open, until 23 November. Read the details of the application requirements or just browse the website.
How do you write a cheque? If you are a bit hazy, how easy is it find out?
I just tried to discover what help there is online, starting with the website of the Personal Finance Education Group or pfeg. It says it is the UK’s leading finance education charity. “We provide resources and lesson plans, help and advice to anyone teaching children and young people about money.”
Sounds good. So I put “how to write a cheque” (without the quote marks) into pfeg’s search engine. “Your search yielded no results”. Hmmm. Perhaps they’re a bit unsure too.
I tried searching with the single word cheque. Success – one result. That linked to The Banking Game. “Skills such as writing out a cheque, paying with a debit card or crediting their account are all included. …”
Great. Except when you follow the link what you get is:
I’m not likely to pay £35 to learn how to write a cheque. Nor are young people. So that’s a dead end. (Apologies to pfeg if I’ve missed anything on their site. If they let me know, I’ll link to what they have.)
The most useful online resource I found on a quick search for how to write a cheque is from the project Money matters to me created by adult educators NIACE. It isn’t cutting-edge design. It isn’t branded as a youth resource. But it has good, sound information. Free. On this cheques page, users can roll over the cheque and see the different elements described. They can then try entering the key information themselves on some examples provided – scroll towards the end of the page and click next.
Data on how happiness relates to health and to where people live was released this week by the Office for National Statistics. This makes sense. Both affect people’s well-being.
What’s missing, though, is anything about how managing money underlies these and the other measures used to track happiness. Worth noting:
- Managing money is a life-skill that is key to well-being. It helps people operate in society and to become who they want to be.
- Poor money management leads to ill health.
- The way we manage money affects our well-being now – and also has a lasting impact on life satisfaction in the future.
- Feeling in more control of your money makes a bigger contribution to psychological well-being than an increase in income.
These points were all made to the consultation on setting up the measures by the Money Advice Service. (Download the MAS consultation response as a pdf). The ONS has responded by including two experimental measures:
- Percentage of the population who report that they are finding it quite or very difficult to get by financially
- Percentage of the population who are satisfied with their household income
Data on these will presumably be published sometime in the future. Meanwhile the ONS says it is still looking for a measure of financial security. And it welcomes further comment on this and on the financial measures above.
What goods and services do you need to take part in society? And how much would they cost if you added them all up?
The latest report on minimum income standards from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation led to headlines about overall costs – a single person needs an income of £16,400 a year before tax. But it is the process and thinking behind the report that are most of interest to financial educators.
The survey is based on a simple exercise. Put people in a room and get them to agree what is the minimum needed to take part in society.
Then cost it.
This means people debating and trying to come to agreement about such questions as:
- Do you need a car? Does it depend on where you live and what bus services are like? What impact might it have on going out, meeting friends? Or getting a better job, or a job at all?
- How often do you need a haircut? The mayor of London manages without. Can anyone?
- Do you need to buy friends birthday cards and presents? How does it affect life if you don’t, or can’t?
- What about a holiday? If you cannot afford one, does that mean you are missing out on something that society takes for granted? If everyone needs one, how long, how often and where?
The exercise is about society and attitudes. Getting an understanding of that can help prioritise. It focuses on the need to plan for lumpy spending items. It is also helpful for young people to see the sheer number of things that have to be considered in order to live independently and take a full part in society.
For a bit of perspective, it’s also worth knowing that the JRF calculate that a single person needs a net income, after tax and rent, of £193 a week. Benefit, including council tax benefit, would provide £85 a week. That’s £108 a week short of what most people agree they would need.
Is it worth signing up for a course in health & beauty? Can a successful media student expect a job in the creative industry? Many have wondered. A report out this month could help young people make a more informed judgement. Hidden Talents, a report by the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion, is a “skills mismatch analysis”. It very conveniently compares FE and skills achievements with the number of current jobs in the relevant occupations and the estimated new vacancies.
There are limits to the data, and precise figures should be treated with caution, warn the researchers. But in general, they say:
At a national level, there are significantly fewer jobs / vacancies per skills achievement in the creative industries; hair & beauty; and hospitality, leisure, travel & tourism. This suggests that these sectors have an over-supply of training. There are significantly more jobs / vacancies per skills achievement in marketing & sales; supporting teaching & learning in schools; security industries; and fashion & textiles. This suggests that these sectors have an under-supply of training.
They put the data for 16 to 18 year olds in a colour-coded table, where red indicates a relatively low number of jobs per skills achievement. Green indicates a relatively high number of jobs. Yellow is average:
Hidden Talents: Skills mismatch analysis, by Laura Gardiner and Tony Wilson, is downloadable from the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion.
A speech today by Prime Minister David Cameron on welfare benefits has triggered concern for young people. While the proposals are vague and poorly-defined, they seem to signal an intent to reduce benefits for young people. For instance, they propose denying housing benefit to anyone under 25 – with the possible exception of care leavers and victims of domestic violence. The theme was “no one is owed a living”.
How can young people, and those who work with them, respond in such a climate. Here are some quick thoughts:
- Don’t waste too much energy or thought on the current discussions. They are about political positioning. They may influence the Conservative party manifesto in the run-up to the next election. Or not. Either way they are currently a distraction from the changes that are already in the pipeline or happening.
- Get advice on the rules for benefit entitlement. Rules are complex and changing. Find a good source of reliable local advice and build up relationships. This will be tougher than it once was. Welfare rights and advice services are fighting for their existence. So help them if you can.
- Stay flexible, and keep abreast of changes as they happen. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, considering appealing. Many decisions are reversed on appeal.
- On the jobs market, be aware that not all training and education gives the same chance of getting a job. In general, the hair & beauty industry has a relatively low number of vacancies compared to those with skills to do them. So does hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism. And the creative and cultural industries. On the other hand, health & safety, fashion & textiles and marketing and sales have relatively high number of jobs for those skilled to do them.
Shanene Thorpe, a young single parent, agreed to be interviewed for national television news about her life. She is proud of her child – “a beautiful, sociable and happy three-year-old girl”. She is also proud of the way she herself copes with the challenges of being a working mum. She lives in London and works in Tower Hamlets. As a worker on a low income, she is entitled to housing benefit to contribute towards her rent. So she claims it.
By the end of the interview, Shanene felt humiliated. She thought she was being given the opportunity to talk about what it is like to be an working mum – her struggle to find a place to live independently. Instead, she faced a series of aggressive, rude and ill-informed questions from the journalist, Allegra Stratton, a political editor on BBC’s Newsnight programme,
Shanene thinks the BBC owes her and her family an apology. She is inviting others to sign a petition requesting one, which more than 20,000 people have signed. The petition is online, along with a clip of the interview.
The clip reveals a badly-prepared interviewer with a unpleasant prejudice. Newsnight’s political editor looks boorish, ignorant and insensitive. It is a reminder of the deep level of ignorance among journalists and politicians about the lives of most people. Such coverage widens the divide. In future, people such as Shanene will be less inclined to talk to journalists. Tower Hamlets council, who set up the interview, will be less inclined to help. Mistrust and suspicion will fuel ignorance – when what is needed is greater knowledge and understanding. And more voices like Shanene’s showing what a great job young, single mothers do in adverse circumstances.
UPDATE 1 June 20102: Shanene has now heard from Newsnight. “A Newsnight producer rang me at work and said they were sorry if I felt I had not been accurately portrayed in the interview. I don’t really feel this is sufficient.” She describes more fully what happened to her and how she felt on a Guardian Comment is Free article.
Two young men who were aimless and broke are now enthusiastic and committed trainee youth workers. They also have much-improved money skills. How? They used the services of an advice and counselling service which was helping pilot a peer education project.
Money is rarely the primary reason young people contact Youth Start, a confidential advice, counselling and support service in Rotherham, funded through the Youth Service. ”But as you unravel what is concerning them, money may well be at the root of it”, says service co-ordinator Ann Berridge.
The project has provided help since 1989 with stress and emotional issues, sex and relationships, contraception, pregnancy and sexual health. Nowadays, money is often raised as a secondary concern in the project’s drop-in, youth clinics, and counselling sessions. Young people are more likely to have debts, particularly problems with phone contracts. The number of problems are increasing, in part due to the closure of other young people’s projects.
Last year Youth Start joined a money skills programme run by a consortium of national youth organisations and sponsored by a high-street bank.
This is how it worked:
- Staff from the project attended a two-day course for money skills support workers
- They recruited and trained young people, mainly those not in education, employment or training, as volunteer money skills peer educators or “champions”.
- The champions, equipped with a package of money skills material and 16 hours of training, shared their learning and, supported by the workers, ran sessions with other neet young people.
For the two champions who finished the course, the project has had a brilliant outcome says Ann Berridge. They learnt and practised skills to sort out their own finances. And as they worked with other young people they found a purpose in their lives they didn’t have before. Now Josh West and Aaron Wildman, both 19, have been accepted as youth work apprentices at the local college. Developing the commitment and determination to work towards a professional qualification is a major outcome of the course that went beyond budgeting and bank accounts.
Ann Berridge explains: “Josh and Aaron had to manage their own feelings and viewpoints, put aside their thoughts if they conflicted with what the money skills project was trying to deliver. They learnt to respect other young people’s experiences. They worked with people in a much worse position than themselves, not judging them, but accepting their situation and helping them find positive options to move forward.”
They also learnt where their cut-off point was, when a young person’s needs required another agency such as Citizens Advice or a debt advice agency.
At the beginning, that had been a major worry. The young men found the idea of getting involved in in-depth debt advice pretty scary. As they worked through the training they realised that it was relatively low-level. That helped them feel more confident about it, realising that they could use their own skills and their own learning and life experiences.
Money skills peer education in action, Aaron on right
The money skills “champions” project is now being rolled out nationally. Details of how to take part are on the money skills website hosted by Barclays.
The organisations in the consortium delivering the project are Citizens Advice, the National Youth Agency, Rathbone UK, UK Youth, Youth Access and YouthNet.
The cost of living is rising for young people. Yet the minimum wage was frozen for workers under 21.
Young members of trade union Unison’s northern region argue this is unfair. They have launched an e-petition to get the topic of raising the rate for young workers debated in parliament.
The minimum wage is currently £6.19 an hour for workers aged over 21, and £4.98 for 18 to 20 year olds.
Clicking on the copy below links to the epetition. It can be signed by anyone who is a British citizen normally living in the UK.