We Count Project – financial literacy project

We had known for many years that many of the people coming to Pecket who had difficulties with reading and writing also had difficulties with numbers. We also knew from personal experience the financial difficulties that come with such problems. We wanted to target those who might have difficulties with numbers but would not necessarily identify with reading and writing difficulties. We designed our ‘We Count’ Project – offering support with everyday issues connected to difficulties with numbers and personal finance.

Our 7 month pilot project was funded by West Yorkshire Grants and Community Foundation for Calderdale and Kirklees and highlighted the vulnerability of people who do not have sufficient understanding of numbers in order to manage their own finances. We Count project worked in partnership with local Credit Unions and the Illegal Money lending team which showed how these people become the target of Loan Sharks and illegal moneylenders, with sometimes very severe consequences for their health and wellbeing. Our workers Helen and Sam working with Pecket Wellians offered support, advice and guidance to people likely to be targeted by Loan sharks and illegal moneylenders, by exposing their practices and giving information about alternative solutions such as Credit Unions and Banks.

Out of the people who were involved in our pilot project, 42,1% had no Adult Basic Education and all participants had very poor basic budgeting skills along with very little understanding of services such as Direct Debits and interest rates. This quote from a young woman on one of our courses, explains very well the kind of situation the people we are aiming to help find themselves in: ‘I’m never really interested in interest rates, because I never think I’ll be able to pay it back anyway’.

Many of the people who have attended the ‘we count’ workshops, find themselves in serious debt problems that severely impact on their health and wellbeing, all from never having been equipped with basic budgeting skills. In most cases they do not seek help in time, if at all, and the hopelessness of the situations they find themselves in, along with the stigma and shame attached to severe lack of basic skills, and are often the beginning of a route that leads to severe mental and physical health problems, abuse and crime.

‘We Count’ helped a wide range of people gain better control of their daily finances and their lives. Issues ranging from inability to use a cash machine to understanding interest rates, have helped people feel more in control of their lives, better equipped to deal with challenges such as ill health, unemployment, death of a relative etc. They are also less vulnerable to ‘consumer traps’ such as store cards, ‘interest free’ loans and particularly the services provided by Loan Sharks and illegal moneylenders.