Money lessons prove a lifeline for students with special needs: National branch in Basildon helps with personal finance issues
Personal finance is slowly finding its way into the national curriculum in our schools – but this is cold comfort to the many young people with special educational needs who are not given the necessary lessons to help them understand the issues of key money.
Here we visit a construction company that is embarking on an initiative to right that wrong.
Why support is needed
Young people with special educational needs do not need our pity, just our support. There are up to a million students between the ages of 16 and 18 who are inhibited in their learning by conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome.
Cash is king: Paige Slight and Alfie Coles get tips on using ATMs
Although some struggle to live independently, all could enjoy a more independent life if given the tools to deal with personal financial challenges such as managing a bank account.
Unfortunately, the financial services industry does not offer a standard package of support tailored to these young people. Even the educational charities involved in enrolling personal finance in the school curriculum do not offer special courses.
Myron Jobson, head of personal finance education campaign for wealth manager Interactive Investor, said: “This group of vulnerable young people need our help more than any other in society – yet, bizarrely, they are being forgotten. and ignored by almost everyone. It is time to remedy this shameful situation.
How branches can help
At the Nationwide Building Society in Basildon, Essex, a dozen students aged 16 to 18 came to visit. They come from Endeavor Co-operative Academy – a special education school – in nearby Brentwood.
The branch’s senior manager, Zafar Sadak, invited them after being inspired by his wife Maz, a special needs teacher, who expressed her concern that these youngsters often fall through the cracks. society without the support they need and deserve.
Branch staff take a hands-on approach by showing these students how to learn about online banking, using a branch counter service, operating an ATM, and are instructed in the need to be aware of bank scammers. Nationwide offers “Money Lessons” programs for all schools. But it doesn’t target people with special needs, so the program had to be tailored to academy students.
Metro Bank offers ‘currency zone’ courses to ‘care leavers’, that is, young adults who have spent time in care, such as a children’s home.
General personal finance courses are not compulsory in primary education. Secondary schools generally address banking issues as part of personal, social, health and economic courses. The financial education charity Young Enterprise provides educational aid to schools nationwide through its Young Money program.
But it doesn’t offer standard courses suitable for people with special needs – just advice on how courses can be adapted. Sharon Davies, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise, said: “Certainly more can be done to support people with special educational needs. The key is to offer them practical help – for example, support from a bank to help them manage their money.
The charity offers team programs where children with special educational needs can work together and develop financial skills. Interactive Investor’s Jobson says, “We need to act now to make sure personal finance courses are for everyone.
The cost of failure
People with learning disabilities are often targeted by scammers eager to exploit their confident nature. Many vulnerable young people are targeted as ‘mules’ – they befriend criminals who use them to launder money.
Nationwide’s Sadak said: “A particularly cruel trick is to pretend to be friends with a youngster and take advantage of their trusting nature. They then politely ask if they can send them some money – as they are having trouble using their bank account.
He adds: “They could give the youngster £1,000 and ask him to transfer it to his account – telling him to keep £100 as a thank you for his help.” Money laundering – even if done unintentionally – is a serious crime that can result in the freezing of a bank account.
A chat about fraud with the folks at Nationwide’s Basildon branch led to many sharing their experiences of criminals trying to rob them – and their families. Brandon Love, 18, says: “Like many of my friends, I am bombarded with phone calls and text messages from people wanting to sell me something or give me money they say they owe me.
“They ask me for my bank details. The only way I can deal with it is to ignore the message.
WHY ADVICE CAN BE PRICELESS
Waving a few fiver notes in the air as if he had just won the National Lottery, 16-year-old student Alfie Coles learns to use a cash machine at the Nationwide branch in Basildon.
He is told to always use an ATM in a branch rather than a hole in the wall outside – as it is safer and he is less likely to have his bank details stolen.
Alfie is warned to cover the pinpad with his free hand when he types in his four-digit number. He takes the clean £5 notes out of the ATM and is then shown how to deposit the money using the same machine. Alfie says: “This lesson was useful to me as I had never put money in a machine before – although I still prefer dealing with people at the counter.
Jack Dodd, 17, is an avid coin collector. He hopes that when withdrawing cash at the counter he might get lucky and receive a rare limited edition 50 pence coin from Kew Gardens worth £150.
Although Jack has a brilliant mind for finance, a sense of innocence makes people like him vulnerable to cheating.
Paige Slight, 17, sat patiently at a computer learning how to transfer money online from a checking account to a savings account, which earns more interest.
She says, “I would much rather spend money right away by going out with my friends.
But another student, Morgan Pattle, 16, encourages Paige to try saving more “because it will help you buy other people’s things like clothes”. Paige nods in appreciation.