The Financial Inclusion Champions provide advice and support to organisations that help people in Wales who are experiencing financial difficulty. Help with accessing financial services such as transactional bank accounts and direct debit payments can make a big difference to managing personal finances and preventing people getting into debt.
The Champions also work with the All-Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit to tackle the problem of loan sharks and illegal money lending. They raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and provide advice and support to victims. The champions also work to ensure people are aware of other sources of affordable lending, such as credit unions.
The Communities and Culture Committee recently carried out an inquiry into financial inclusion and the impact of financial education in Wales. The inquiry was welcomed by the Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant, who today said,
“I am grateful to the Communities and Culture Committee for carrying out their review that will further advance this important area or work.”
The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to helping people manage their money, regardless of their income, social status or ability. In July 2009 the Assembly Government launched Wales’ first Financial Inclusion Strategy, ‘Taking Everyone into Account’. The Strategy seeks to improve access to debt and money advice, affordable credit and savings options, as well as promoting financial capability.
In addition, the Assembly Government has introduced a number of schemes to help people manage their money. For example, the Assembly Government has;
- Provided £3 million to increase Council Tax and Housing Benefit take up, widening the focus to families with children, as well as pensioners.
- Incorporated financial education into the core curriculum in Welsh schools. Students from the age of seven can now learn how to manage their money in both the maths and PSE curriculum.
- Recently provided £3.4 million of joint Assembly Government/European funding to help deliver the One Wales commitment to continue credit union development. Such funding has helped achieve all-Wales credit union coverage and has seen credit union membership rise to 50,000.
- Introduced a £36.5 million Mortgage Repossession Scheme enabling housing associations to buy the homes of people who are facing repossession due to mortgage arrears.
- Provided £747,000 to introduce Citizens Advice Cymru’s advice line to provide greater access to important benefits and debt advice
- Provided an extra £500,000 to raise awareness of benefits for the families of disabled children.
The Minister said,
“I am very pleased to announce this funding for the Welsh Champions team so that they can continue their excellent work. It is vital that people are given the support and advice they need to help manage their money and get out of debt.
“Our Financial Inclusion Strategy has already made a big difference in Wales by supporting people who experience financial difficulties and providing advice to prevent such difficulties occurring again.
“Although we have come a long way there is still a lot to be done. Helping people gain the skills and confidence to manage their money is particularly important in these difficult economic conditions.
“I would like to see everybody in Wales having access to affordable financial products and the confidence and capability to use them. We want people to be able to plan for their futures with a reasonable degree of security. They need to possess the right information and skills to avoid getting into financial difficulties and know where to find help should they need it."