Managing money is an essential life skill. Many of us remember our parents setting us up with our first bank account as a child, or being taught the rudiments of spending and saving. While looking after different accounts and a credit rating are not the most fun aspect of adult life, they are necessary and the earlier young people can learn these skills, the better.
Action for Children supports young people who have had turbulent childhoods or have gone through the care system. They may have missed years of school or lacked the family environment to learn basic skills, from budgeting to paying bills.
It's fair to say that most people worry about money in some way or another. Vulnerable young people, however, do not have the luxury of making mistakes to learn from. One in four have told Action for Children they already struggle to pay for the bare essentials like food, so one unpaid bill or missed rent payment can mean homelessness or feeling forced to go to high-interest lenders, making an already difficult situation insurmountable.
Our report, Getting a Fair Deal?, shows that young people particularly want information about money when it comes to major transitions in their lives, nearly three quarters of them said it was needed when they left home and starting in further or higher education or starting a job are also key times.
Successive governments have recognised the need to improve financial know-how and we acknowledge that retail financial services have contributed millions towards delivering financial education. Financial institutions, such as your high street bank or building society, may seem like an obvious choice for many people, but we know that 59% of the vulnerable young people we spoke to would not go to banks for information because they said they find them intimidating and unhelpful.
Very simple changes would make banks and building societies more accessible to vulnerable young people. They need to use everyday language and train their staff to understand the needs of vulnerable young people. Such simple adjustments would encourage more young people, who are currently telling us that these institutions are 'not for them', to find out the support banks have to offer.
Improving the day to day experience of using banks for vulnerable young people would help them to become more financially stable and in time attractive customers. It would also help banks to secure their position as trusted high street institutions. The Government can also play its part in ensuring all young people have money skills by making them integral to employment and training programmes.
The young people we work with in our services face additional challenges and the odds are already stacked against them in reaching their full potential. Young people armed with budgeting skills and the knowledge necessary to manage money have a greater chance of finding and holding down a job. We know that people who are in control of their lives and finances are more resilient, more able to find and keep a job, and more likely to create a stable home.