Today an independent group of cross-sector leaders have published key recommendations to address the urgent financial wellbeing implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. In January, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) brought together 145 of the most experienced minds in the U.K. to develop the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing. Even before Covid-19 caused tens of thousands of deaths and closed large parts of the economy, the UK faced deep financial wellbeing challenges. Eleven independent Challenge Groups were established with a common goal to work together on this issue of vital national importance.
UK Youth CEO, Ndidi Okezie, was asked to chair the Challenge Group: Financial Foundations which has been focused on addressing the financial wellbeing of children and young people across the U.K. The Group’s long-term national goal is to ensure that two million more children and young people can receive meaningful financial education
The Covid crisis has magnified many financial wellbeing challenges. Today’s 13 urgent recommendations by the Challenge Group Chairs include immediate actions in response to the needs arising from the pandemic. These include essential financial skills training for young people and a three phased programme of awareness raising to ensure that young people are protected and know exactly where to go to access support at this time of heightened vulnerability. The Chairs have published their urgent recommendations in a report Building the UK’s financial wellbeing in the light of Covid-19.
Three of the recommendations directly focus on children and young people, who are not only hit hard by the pandemic but will be living with the after-effects of the crisis longest of all. Young people are 2.5 times more likely than people in older age groups to work in a sector hit by Covid-19, and job losses among young people are accelerating to figures that have never been seen before.
To support young people with financial wellbeing for the future, recommendations are included as ‘moments that matter’ to be addressed through education and awareness right now.
- MaPS should run a three-phased programme of awareness raising, coordinating messaging and partners through an agile approach, to reach: people at risk of over-committing to high-cost credit; young people in financial difficulty finding it harder to transition to employment/further education; and people at risk of redundancy.
Part of this recommendation includes a three-phased awareness raising programme to start as soon as possible in 2020 to help and support people to address immediate financial issues and topics in the run-up to Christmas.
- An ‘Essential Financial Skills’ training programme should be co-designed by MaPS, with young people, and embedded in all government backed programmes for 16- to 24-year-olds that lead to jobs and careers.
Immediate actions recommended include that MaPS would work with young people to codesign a financial skills programme for 16- to 24-year-olds preparing for and entering the workplace. In parallel, MaPS would work with governments across the UK, and major employers, training providers and apprenticeship bodies — to ensure the programme is fit for purpose, and agree a rollout mechanism.
- MaPS should develop parent/child conversation support tools to help families facing the combined challenges of money and mental health problems, drawing upon proven ‘Talk, Learn, Do’ techniques previously piloted by MaPS.
Ndidi Okezie, UK Youth CEO, says; ‘We already know that the pandemic has had far-reaching implications on the wellbeing and life chances of millions of children and young people. We have a collective duty to act now and ensure there is far better coordinated access to financial literacy, support tools, employment opportunities and overall mental health resilience. Working for the past 9 months with leaders from across so many sectors has demonstrated what can be achieved when we step outside of our silos and put our beneficiaries right at the heart of solutions. Our Covid response recommendations are not “nice to haves” they are critical, they are urgent and they must be implemented with this continued cross-sector approach to working.”
The combination of increased debts and inevitable changes to furlough/job support schemes raises the prospect of unemployment levels not seen since the 1980s, with most estimates of a 10%
GDP fall in 2020, much bigger than that seen in the Great Crash of 2008. The recommendations laid out in the report aim to make a tangible difference to young people’s lives by December 2021, and much earlier where possible. Working together, pooling expertise and insights from across sectors, the Group Chairs now present these urgent recommendations in Building the UK’s financial wellbeing in the light of Covid-19 and look forward to engaging others in this work moving forward.