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News: Big Issue Founder Applauds Money House Expansion

Posted by Mark Cantrell on November 17, 2017 at 5:55 AM

Teaching fledgling tenants to manage their nest egg

Big Issue founder John Bird has backed a scheme to help tackle homelessness by teaching vulnerable young Londoners to better manage their money

By Mark Cantrell

THE founder of the Big Issue in the UK, Lord John Bird, has urged councils to embrace a scheme that teaches practical money management skills to vulnerable young people, claiming it helps to ‘dismantle the root causes of poverty’.

Lord Bird was taking part in a special presentation at Westminster to mark the expansion of The Money House, which is managed by the education charity MyBnk, where he spoke of the value the programme has in helping to tackle homelessness.

"At the Big Issue, we are on a mission to dismantle the root causes of poverty by offering a hand up not a hand out, so I applaud MyBnk for all their efforts,” said Lord Bird. “I hope that more councils will embrace the initiative, so that even more young people will be equipped with the skills needed to survive and prevent homelessness and debt."

Lord John Bird, social entrepreneur and founder of the Big Issue

Councils across the capital are already making use of the Money House’s specialist financial capability programme, expecting young people aged 16 to 25, to complete the course before they can bid for a social home. Hundreds have so far been referred, and Bird is urging more local authorities to make the most of the programme.

Based in real flats, The Money House is said to give young people leaving the care system, or in sheltered housing, the financial, digital and employability skills they need to survive and move into independent living.

Over five days the scheme helps would-be tenants tackle rent, bills, budgeting, and living costs to make “informed choices” about their future and challenge their attitudes and behaviours towards things like debt. It also hosts staff from local banks and JobCentres to help them navigate the system.

“Being able to manage your money and budget a household could be the difference between independence and the streets,” said Guy Rigden, MyBnk’s chief executive. “If you work with young people who could benefit from The Money House, please refer them immediately. After the project, participants are three times less likely to have rent arrears than their peers, no one who has completed it has ever been evicted, and landlords have reduced costs and secure more rent with fewer arrears.”

The scheme was originally based in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, but it has since expanded to Newham, where according to the charity Shelter one-in-25 people are homeless.

Last year, the charity Centrepoint discovered that one in five young people, homeless or at risk of being homeless, was refused help by UK councils. For those leaving the care system, it is said that there is a one-in-three chance of losing their first home within the first two years.

The launch of the expanded service coincides with the Money Advice Service’s Financial Capability Week. The Money House was originally established with the assistance of social housing provider, the Hyde Group, which later handed over the reins to MyBnk to pave the way for its growth.

Elaine Bailey, Hyde Group’s chief executive, said: “Hyde are incredibly proud to have been involved in the set-up of The Money House and are pleased to be able to continue to support the excellent work of this project preparing vulnerable young people for living independently and building their financial resilience. Making sure that people have the skills that they need to be successful in managing their tenancy is a really important outcome for the housing sector.”

The Money House is now supported by the Berkeley Foundation, Hyde Charitable Trust and JPMorgan Chase Foundation. In 2016 it won The Guardian’s Public Service Award for Housing.

“Everyone has to make choices about money, and for young people who don’t have a support network to lean on, it can feel like a minefield,” said Rob Perrins, chairman of the Berkeley Foundation. “So I think we need a Money House in every London Borough and in every city across Britain. It’s about helping young care leavers find their feet in society.”

Hang Ho, head of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation for EMEA, added: “If young people can better acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and tools required to understand their finances, it will increase their economic stability and build the foundation for a better future. MyBnk aims to help at the critical point when these young people are thrust into financial independence. It’s a crucial transition and we’re passionate about laying the groundwork for a more certain financial future for these young people.”

Lord John Bird (he was made a life peer, Baron Bird, in October 2015) launched the Big Issue back in 1991 as a means of helping homeless people in London earn an income, rather than resort to begging. Vendors buy the magazine for £1.25 and sell them on to the public at £2.50. Over the years, the magazine says it has helped some 92,000 people in this way. Currently, there are 1,500 active vendors selling the magazine in towns and cities across the UK. Over 82,000 copies of the magazine are circulated every week.


The Money House staff: Matthew Mehra, project manager; Dembo Drame, training assistant; Jade Edwards, training assistant; Nick Patel-Smith, education officer; Natasha Gray, training assistant; Tope Chiedozie, education officer; Rebecca Anthony, quality and training manager

Images courtesy of the Big Issue.


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