A charity led, money management project has lifted the lid on the reasons why young people in the UK are fearful of talking about their financial situations.
The Barclays Money Skills ‘champions’ project, run in partnership with the National Youth Agency (NYA), is a nationwide initiative to improve the financial skill of UK’s most disadvantaged youth. Young people involved in the project have admitted to ignoring debt because they did not want to appear unable to cope and were afraid of the consequences.
After leaving home at 16, Terri (20) had just moved into her own flat, but found she was struggling to keep up with her utility bills and had started to receive ‘scary red letters’. “I didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted to prove I could cope on my own,” she said.
In an attempt to meet the increasing debt she was accumulating, Terri reduced her food bill to an unhealthy level and for several months declined all invites to go out and socialise with friends. “I knew it was getting worse, but I didn’t know what to do about it,” Terri said.
Terri enrolled on to Barclays Money Skills ‘champions’, after hearing about it from a friend. The project includes sessions on budgeting, saving, loans, credit and supporting young people to understand the implications of their financial choices.
It was after the session facilitated by the Citizens Advice Bureau that Terri told her story to her support worker. “I had never budgeted before and it made me realise how important it was to plan ahead and not just live for each day”. Most importantly, Terri found out that she could gain free, confidential advice from an agency that was just a five minute walk from where she lived.
Conceived by Barclays and run in partnership with a consortium of charities including the National Youth Agency, Rathbone UK, UK Youth, Youth Access and Citizens Advice, the project champions peer education, giving young people the confidence to pass on valuable information to others.
A local project support worker in the South East said, “In a recent training session, an 18 year old girl confided in me about her money worries. She was afraid that she was going to be sent to prison for her debt. She didn’t realise she could set up a payment plan with the help of an information agency.
“She left the training saying she felt as if a ‘weight had been lifted’. It is so important that young people know there are people who will listen and not judge them. The great thing about this project is that it enables young people to share their stories and knowledge to help others in similar situations.”
The National Youth Agency’s Chief Executive, Fiona Blacke said, “It is understood by the partnership that a significant number of young people lack the necessary skills to manage their money effectively, and are reluctant to talk about it through fear of what might happen to them. This is particularly true for young people who live independently or those without family to fall back on.
“The ‘champions’ not only graduate from the project with a better understanding of money management, but improved communication, presentation and leadership skills and a real sense of self-worth, which will hopefully help them to plan ahead for their future.”