Young people in Wales help shape new law

Posted by Rhea Stevens / Friday 25 July 2014 / Early intervention Financial education

Young people in Wales helped shape a new law which has just been proposed in the National Assembly for Wales. If it becomes a law, the Financial Education and Inclusion (Wales) Bill would make sure that young people who leave care have the skills they need to understand and manage their money when they live independently. 

We’re so pleased this important issue is getting the attention it deserves. We know first-hand from our everyday work with vulnerable young people and families in Wales that those people who experience significant difficulties in their lives often struggle to manage their finances.

The young people we work with including young people leaving care, disabled young people and young parents, are particularly exposed to financial risks. There can be devastating consequences for their health, housing, physical and emotional health. Young people I’ve met have described their experience of debt as a mistake that they didn’t know they were making and one which is nearly impossible to put right without support.

One of our managers explains:

“Borrowing is becoming easier for young people, they feel it is a quick fix without understanding the consequences. The result is increased debt and inabilities to make repayments, day to day products such as food and bills are not being paid on time and this increases the stress and anxiety some of our young parents have regarding meeting their children's needs. They then rely on services such as the food bank to see them through.”

Action for Children works with Barclays Money Skills to deliver financial education to vulnerable young people and families. We have a long-term partnership to help young people in Wales, and across the UK, manage their money better by giving them knowledge, skills, and confidence they need.

One young parent from Swansea who has done the Barclays Money Skills course told us about her struggle to escape debt:

“Everything I earnt went straight into paying bills and I didn’t have any left over.  It’s really easy to get in with the Provident (a loan company), but then it’s hard to get out of it once you’re in it. My mum told me about it, that’s how she lives. You’d have thought she would have not wanted me to get into it. … I got into lots of debt, and it’s taking ages to get out of it. I couldn’t do it on my own”

Young people who do not have support from their families require additional support to build the skills needed to manage their finances safely and independently.  We know that those least able to afford high cost loans, goods and services and the least equipped to deal with the consequences are often targeted by companies to use them. These things combined can prevent young people thriving and trap them in a cycle of debt they aren’t able to escape without help.

Bethan Jenkins AM, the Assembly Member who has proposed the Financial Education and Inclusion (Wales) Bill spent a lot of time meeting and talking to young people about what they thought was important. She came to meet some of the young people who use our services, and it’s great to see their experiences and priorities reflected in the draft law.

Making sure that young people have the skills to understand the consequences of their decisions is a really important part of preventing people getting stuck in a vicious debt cycle. By giving people the tools we can help prevent issues escalating and reaching crisis point.

This law is an Assembly Member Bill. This basically means that Bethan Jenkins’ name was pulled out of hat and she could propose a law that she thought was important. There is no guarantee the law will pass;  we are at the beginning of a long process where Assembly Members will debate and discuss the law to see if they believe it is a good thing. If they think it is, it will go ahead and become a real law.

The important thing is that this issue is getting the attention it requires from the National Assembly for Wales. There will be proper consideration of what can and should be done to make sure vulnerable young people have the skills they need to manage their money safely.

We’d like to see other vulnerable young people such as young parents and disabled young people have access to this support as well as care leavers. We’re really pleased our young people have been heard, and will carry on making sure they have opportunities to speak directly to politicians about why this matters and what a law could do to help others like them.

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