Where we are with financial capability

For The Money Charity, Financial Capability Week is a chance to look back on our successes and take stock of what has been achieved over the last few years. We’re proud of the work we and our friends have done. Up and down the country, from community centres and classrooms to the halls of Westminster, we’ve been making a real difference, transforming people’s relationship with money.

But it makes us no less proud of our achievements to admit that there is still a huge amount to be done, both for us and others working in the sector. For all the strides taken forward, not everyone has access to services that could help them take control of their finances, far too few young people are learning the financial skills they need.

First, the good news

This week The Money Charity will deliver a workshop for our 150,000th school and college student since 2010! She, like the thousands who have gone before, will learn money skills that she’ll use every day of her adult life. She’ll grapple with her emotional relationship with money, practice making a budget and learn about basic financial products. Soon, teachers will be set up with resources to help embed this knowledge.

We’ve also been able to expand our work with adults, working to build the financial skills of prisoners, homeless people, religious groups, corpoCookie 150,000rate employers and local councils just to name a few.

And this growth is supported by the new direction The Money Advice Service is taking. By funding organisations already doing financial capability work in order to gather evidence of “what works”, MAS is now playing its part in building capacity and promoting good practice.

With MAS backing the sector this way, we all look forward to being able to grow and take what we do to ever more people in need of help to build financial capability.

Taken together with the recent decision of the Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions to create a single money guidance body to succeed MAS, we can look with optimism to a future where those working for financial capability are well supported and the sector is strongly led.

But there’s a lot still to do

Despite the work of organisations like ours, financial education has not made the leap forward many expected it would in 2014 when it was written into the secondary school curriculum. Our research this autumn showed that nearly two thirds of teachers think that financial education is not delivered effectively. Without resources and incentives for school leaders, vital skills are still not being taught in schools and young people are going out into the world unequipped for the financial challenges they face – surely a part of the shocking statistic that one in three 18-24 year olds feels a “heavy burden” of debt.

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The All Party Parliamentary Group for Financial Education for Young People recently returned to this issue recognising that ‘many barriers still remain that prevent [financial education] from becoming a reality’. But legislation or reform has yet to take place.

And although the decision to create a single body to provide money guidance was hugely welcome, uncertainty still exists about what this will look like and what scope it will have to be a public facing brand, providing for and championing a more financially capable Britain.

As with so many of the challenges society faces, solutions for financial capability probably already exist – but only in isolated places. The challenge is scaling these models. Whether it’s us, MyBnk or Young Enterprise working in schools or the Citizen’s Advice “Quids In” programme, there is plenty of excellent work going on out there. But providing these at scale can only happen with a powerful statutory champion.

As the government looks again at what role the new financial capability body will have and political attention is focussed on financial education, we stand at a crossroads.