Budgeting can be a really difficult subject for people with a learning disability, as numbers can seem really abstract. It takes a lot of mental steps to connect £10 on a piece of paper with a ten pound note with an understanding of what that can get you in a shop. Let alone thinking about ‘imaginary’ money on a bank card, what happens if you spend more than you have or how interest works!
For many people with a learning disability, the challenges of managing a budget are taken over by their support provider. Because money is an area where people could be very vulnerable to risk or abuse, many support teams safeguard people by having processes such as keeping their bank card and money in a safe, tracking their spending and receipts or only giving them a certain amount of money each day.
Whilst this ensures that people are kept safe, it stops them needing to learn, make mistakes or develop their independence around money.
Dosh has supported Lynn for a number of years and seen her develop her confidence and capability around money. In particular, we have encouraged her to build skills around decision making so that she feels in control of what is happening with her money.
We’ve done this by taking the different steps of making a decision – deciding you want something, looking at options, weighing up pros and cons – and breaking them down into more accessible steps. For example, when working out if something is affordable we use the Money Plan game. This is a really visual, accessible version of a budget where Lynn can move physical counters around a board and decide what she wants to prioritise.
In this way, making financial decisions doesn’t have to involve numbers. It also helps her think not only ‘do I have enough money’ but also ‘what decision will I not be able to make if I make this one?’ The Money Plan game has helped Lynn with everything from picking her weekly activities to deciding to save for a holiday.
Lynn’s support team have also worked with her to increase her independence with her bank card. She recently began to take responsibility for the card, keeping it safe in her room and taking it out with her. She uses the cash machine independently and buys things on her card so that she doesn’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of cash on her. This has also increased her independence as she isn’t relying on staff to ensure she has the correct change.
As Lynn’s story shows, there are lots of imaginative ways to use accessible communication techniques and pre-existing technology to increase people’s financial capability and independence. We don’t need to view budgeting in such a traditional way as only being based on numbers and spreadsheets. Financial capability can be about confidence, attitude, being supported to understand the steps involved in decision making, and many more things.
Rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach to the problems and solutions people with a learning disability face around money, we try to empower each person to set goals and find answers that work for them.