Serious debt problems among young adults could be avoided if staff who work directly with vulnerable 16-25 year-olds are given financial skills training, says Citizens Advice.
The statement comes after a joint Citizens Advice and Financial Services Authority project, to train staff such as social workers, found more than 80% of those of who took part would use what they had learnt in training sessions in their everyday work with young adults.
Staff who took part also reported feeling better able to recognise at an early stage when young people were heading for serious debt problems, and to encourage them to seek help before their debts spiralled out of control.
The pilot took place this year as part of an FSA-led strategy to help establish effective ways to improve the financial capability of young adults.
As part of the scheme, three Citizens Advice Bureaux provided training to 26 agencies and 213 individuals working with young people. The most popular topics were budgeting and debt but sessions also covered basic banking, credit options, bailiffs and seeking advice.
The evaluation report recommends funding is made available for the work started in the pilot scheme to be extended nationally.
John Tiner, chief executive of the FSA, says: “Improving people’s ability to make financial decisions is beneficial to everyone. The success of this pilot and its potential to reach large numbers of people is encouraging and is part of the wider work going on towards implementing a financial capability step change in the UK.”
“For the FSA, helping people access education, information and advice they need to make financial decisions with confidence is central to protecting consumers, promoting public awareness and maintaining market confidence,” he adds.
Citzens Advice chief executive, David Harker, adds: “Many Citizens Advice Bureaux already deliver successful financial skills training directly to young adults. This project has provided an opportunity for us to build on this by piloting a model that provides training to practitioners working directly with young people, such as social workers and housing support workers.”
Harker says such practitioners are often well placed to provide the sort of face-to-face, one-to-one support vulnerable young adults need to help them manage their money and avoid running into serious debt problems.
He believes the training “has the potential to reach many more young adults at risk of financial exclusion”.
“If the scheme is extended, it could make a major contribution to their financial skills and understanding,” he adds.
The results of the pilot come just two weeks after Whitehall sources told IFAonline the government intends to introduce financial planning education into the school curriculum in two years’ time.
The curriculum would include lessons on pensions and savings as part of the government’s attempt to change the “spend now, save later” financial culture in Britain.
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