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.
Meike Beckford November 17th, 2017
By Meike Beckford, Financial Advocacy Manager
Originally posted at: http://blog.fincap.org.uk/2017/11/15/building-financial-capability-the-dosh-way/
Dosh supports people with a learning disability to be more independent and have more control over their money. For us, this is all about building financial capability, so we wanted to write something for #Fincap week to talk about what we have found that works.
Support with money for people with a learning disability can often be an after-thought. Understandably, the priority in social care is to ensure that people are healthy, safe and cared for first. This can mean however, that money gets missed until it reaches crisis point – someone’s benefits are stopped, their money is misused, or they are in debt and struggling to pay bills. We wanted to change that with our approach to financial advocacy. For us, this means involving people as much as possible with their money and tailoring our support to them.
So how do we do this? Here are three things we’ve found that work:
1) Local financial advocates
Our advocates go and visit the people they support personally to provide individual support with money. This means they get to know the person and their circle of support, they know what the person likes and can build a connection with that person. This stops us making arbitrary decisions about what is right for someone and allows us to build their budget around them. I supported a lady called Jane who loved to go to the salon and get pampered. Rather than assigning a ‘standard’ amount for health and beauty spending, we looked at her budget together to enable her to prioritise this spending as she got so much enjoyment from it. This meant she was able to go every 2 weeks for a good pamper! That was achieved by getting to know Jane and her support team, listening to them and creating a budget to suit.
2) Money plan game
Let’s face it, budgets are boring. Whilst some of us may enjoy an Excel spreadsheet, most people find it not only boring but often complicated and confusing. This gets worse when you add in a learning disability, mental health problem, or just complicated finances. A few years ago, we thought we could do better, so we created the money plan game. This is a budget in pictures that you ‘play’ with counters. We use it with lots of groups including people with a learning disability, families, support teams and social workers and they all enjoy it! In groups, people can decide how to spend their ‘money’ and debate whether they’re going to put more money on the pub or the café, which bills are important and how much to save. It lets us talk about prioritising – “Did you start by paying your bills, or did you go straight to the fun stuff?” and clearly shows the relative cost of things – housing is often the biggest ‘tower’ of money and seeing it represented like that makes the cost clear.
When we work with individuals we also use it, by adapting to reflect their actual budget. We can then show them how much they are spending relatively and talk about what is important to them – “do you want to put this counter on going to the gym or going to the cinema?” or “most of your money is going on your bills so you don’t have any left for fun things – do you think you could do anything to save money on those?”. It’s also a great way to deal with changes in income – “you now have an extra £10, do you want to put it in your savings or spend it somewhere?”. This works well in empowering people to make decisions even if they have limited communication, or struggle to read numbers – you don’t have to be spreadsheet-literate, you can point, draw and move counters instead.
3) Supported decision-making
We are supporting increasing numbers of people who have some financial capability, but struggle when things get more complicated and abstract – spending ‘invisible’ money like a direct debit, buying things on credit, or planning something with lots of costs like a holiday. We have developed a way to empower people to make more of their own decisions in these areas, rather than just deciding for them. We ask them a set of questions such as “what are the good and the bad things about this decision?” and “how much money will you have left when you buy this?” to help them think through the decision and its consequences. This enables them to work out what will work best for them now and helps people learn good skills and habits around financial capability to keep making good financial decisions in the future. This is often supported by conversations with their financial advocate to think about their options.
So, for us, building financial capability is all about a personalised approach that uses different communication and money tools to help people understand more about their situation and make informed decisions. This isn’t something that only works for people with a learning disability either, many people find money confusing and would benefit from finding easier ways to make decisions and plan their budget.
To find out more about Dosh’s approach, or to arrange your own money plan game workshop, please visit www.dosh.org
Meike Beckford November 15th, 2017