Conference Day Four: Financial exclusion

This morning’s breafast included a large plate of financial exclusion, with a side helping of Labour success being replaced with a desert of coalition cuts.

This fringe was sponsored by DEMOS, the think tank, along with the Friends Provident Foundation. Mark Allan, from Toynbee Hall (no, not that Toynbee!) talked about the need for financial education, access to a bank account, support for people moving into a new home, especially after being homeless and a need for national co-ordination. There’s been some research into the effect that so-called jam jar accounts could have. These are bank accounts that have virtual “jam jars”, pots where you can save for different things, such as rent, food etc – just as in the past folk used a series of jam jars on the mantlepiece. This sounds excellent, but the problem I see is that this Government is never going to require banks to provide this sort of thing.

Danielle, from the Friends Provident Foundation then talked about the success of the last Labour Government, in reducing the number of people without access to a bank account by 60%.  The measures which helped bring about the step change in the last 5 years were funding (to the tune of £300m by Labour), clarity (having an interventionist Government), action focussed on those with lower incomes. Needless to say these arn’t things we can expect from the current Government, and indeed funds have been cut. We’ve seen that locally with the loss of government funding for a debt advisor in Angus C.A.B.

Even the highly successful Savings Gateway, which had two reports praising it very highly was cut within months of the coalition taking office, and this has affected morale in the sector.

This is an area where Labour will have to develop its policy, and I look forward to the discussions that will be taking place in the near future.

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