Who has responsibility to help people with low financial and digital capability?

Written by Dinah Turner, Director, Stepping Into Business

On a wet Wednesday – a very rare thing in May in Manchester (honestly!) I headed to the NW Digital Leaders Salon to hear insights on Digital and Financial inclusion from the Lloyds and Doteveryone study released earlier this year and also from Stuart MacDonald on the Digital Skills needed across the North.

I would urge you to read the reports and, for a moment, walk in someone else’s shoes; someone who is digitally disadvantaged, either by choice or by financial or societal constraints. Then, pause and think about what we all can do as Digital leaders to support and engage those communities who are perhaps missing out on opportunities and indeed are experiencing increased levels of hardship due to their excluded position.

If you have not yet heard of it, and you may not, the Poverty Premium is a term for recognising that paying £1000 more per year for essential goods and services is worsening the situation for those already socially disadvantaged across the UK. This premium should be a concern for all of us.

Every time you plan to buy something in advance, use a coupon or offer site, save to buy something, use cashback, or recognise a rip off and buy elsewhere, you are further distancing yourself from the position so many others find themselves in. Paying more, for some groups, is inevitable and cyclical. For instance insurance is more expensive, paying more for fuel and food, paying 150% more for an appliance like a cooker or fridge, is typical, as the reduction in monthly payments makes all the difference.

Add to this the report data that significant numbers of people are not able to survive one month without pay or benefit, should a life event intervene and interrupt the flow of cash. This will mean they can find themselves rapidly in more debt or in difficulties with rent arrears and payments, not to mention having to use food banks or social supermarkets to feed themselves and their families.

Why should we care so much about this?

For me, my aspirations for all the children I work with are the same as for my own children. For them to be safe, happy and find a way to support themselves and their own families in future.

I can see when I work in schools that some improved confidence around planning capability and financial awareness can go a long way, and can indeed travel home to families: brothers, sisters, mums and dads.

As leaders in any organisation, big or small, each interaction we get is an opportunity to listen, learn engage and support. Learning is best in a safe and familiar environment with a friendly face.

I would ask, are we doing enough to learn from others, to empathise and understand? Are we also helping others to learn new ways to help themselves? The data in these reports is just the beginning of the conversation we should all be having.

Our discussion at the Salon brought forward some interesting ideas and plans others across the NW are working on in this vein. We can’t solve everything, but we must be able to use our knowledge and skills to understand and make the situation better than it is today.


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