Overcoming the elephant in the room: getting a Fair Deal for young people

Posted by Danielle Cope / Wednesday 30 March 2016 / Financial education

Can you see what I see?

You don’t need to look closely to notice, there’s an elephant in the room.

And unless you happen to be performing in a circus act, then how exactly are you supposed to work around it?

For many disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, financial worries resemble this elephant: intimidating, over-bearing and too big to ignore. Without the knowledge and the skills, the life experience or the parental support, there’s not much a young person can do to tackle this elephant.

You can try to ignore it. You can dance around it. But like it or lump it, that elephant will still be there. Affecting everything you try to do.

“When you’re working on [a care leaver’s] wellbeing, a financial problem is the elephant in the room that stops us from moving forward”.  Staff member, Skills for Living. 

And it affects all of the work we do with young people. It’s much harder to help someone who is coping with so much already.  How can they focus on their future when the present is too much to bear?

Some young people are far more vulnerable than others. Care leavers and young parents rent homes and support children at an earlier age than their peers. Other young people aren’t safe at home, miss school, have low self-esteem and don’t find it easy to trust adults. So managing money is even tougher and can have a devastating impact on health, housing and wellbeing.

So “what are we doing about this elephant?” I hear you ask.

Well, Action for Children recently responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation to update its Financial Inclusion Strategy. This strategy aims to overcome the elephant in the room and improve the financial capability of everyone living in Wales.

Following our response, the Welsh Government have: 

  • Emphasised the importance of tackling poverty throughout the Financial Inclusion strategy
  • Acknowledged the acute and complex needs of those who are most vulnerable and agreed to address their issues specifically
  • Recognised the unique position of youth workers, who can creatively address financial needs during teachable moments and through trusted relationships.
  • Agreed to help care leavers access resources and advice when they need assistance and to explore alternative methods of providing them with financial education
  • Offered to ensure that practitioners can provide extra support and offer ‘warm referrals’
  • Agreed to consider ways to help those in need to reach out for support at the earliest opportunity.

Over the coming months, Action for Children will be working hard to make sure that the Welsh Government sees what we see. 

We will make sure that the Welsh Government prioritises the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable young people as the finer details of the strategy are developed and delivered. 

In July, we’ll host an event at the National Assembly for Wales to encourage politicians to consider the real-life experiences of vulnerable young people and the help that’s needed. Young people from our services will speak out about the financial challenges they’ve been faced with and explain how they overcame them. 

And together, with the outstanding support provided by our service managers and support workers, we will help disadvantaged and vulnerable young people to overcome the elephant in the room.

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