For most of us, it goes without saying that we control our own money. We choose when to spend and save, where to keep it and how to manage it. For many people with a learning disability however this isn’t the case.
Meike Beckford is a Financial Advocate with Dosh, a not for profit company that specialises in supporting people with a learning disability to manage their money. Here she explains more about their recent investigation into banks and banking.
The importance of support
We all need help and support to manage our money, whether it’s a suitable bank account and regular bank statements, or guidance and information about pensions on retirement.
This support is even more important for people with a learning disability and many other financially excluded people. The right information and support enables many more people to manage their own money well, avoiding financial hardship and using their money to have a more fulfilling life.
This support could involve:
- accessible, easy-to-understand information on money topics
- financial education
- maths and numeracy lessons
- budgeting tools
- benefits support
- suitable and adaptable banking products and services
- financial advice
- debt management and support
The important thing is that the support is personalised. Not too much so that the person loses their independence and control, but enough so that they can manage their money well and use it in the way they want.
Dosh believes that everyone should have as much control and independence over their money as possible. We work hard to achieve this in our daily support for people, as well as through extra projects to tackle specific problems.
Problems with banking
We recently became aware of problems people have when accessing banking. Our financial advocates reported problems opening accounts, assessing mental capacity and giving proof of identity.. We decided to investigate the problem further and talked to many partner organisations, like Scope, as well as members of the banking sector to see what we could do to make things better.
Our report showed how damaging poor support can be – a lack of accessible information for example can leave someone unable to understand banking or open an account. This leaves them excluded from managing their finances and ultimately, less in control of their money. Without a bank account, people will struggle to receive benefit payments, make savings on bills through direct debits or put money away for the future.
We wanted to improve the situation and empower people to get the support they need, so we recently released the making money easier guide. This guide follows the report and helps people understand how banks should be supporting them, including what the law says they should be doing.
Supporting people to manage their money better
One of our financial advocates started supporting a gentleman in 2012 who was not receiving all of the benefits he was eligible for and as a result he was struggling to pay his bills or live a fulfilling life.
With personalised support, the gentleman now receives all of the benefits and premiums he is eligible for and also has support to make cost savings such as switching to direct debits to pay his bills.
Thanks to this support, he now lives a much better life. He has taken control of his money, paying all his bills and still having some money left for the things he enjoys – he is even planning a holiday to America in the future, as long as he saves enough money first!
Lack of the right, personalised support with money leaves many people financially disadvantaged and excluded. It increases the risk of financial abuse, mismanagement and debt and stops people making choices about their lives. It is essential that disabled people get the right support and advice to be in control of their money. After all, without money, what could we actually do.
The second in our series of reports in to disabled people’s living standards is – Priced Out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020. The report brings together new research and analysis to investigate the extra costs disabled people face and how to tackle them.