The UK is at the forefront of the global finance industry but too many of its citizens lack access to basic services or are forced to pay extra. The House of Lords says this is unacceptable in a report, Tackling Financial Exclusion: A Country that Works for Everyone? published on 25 March 2017.
Written and oral evidence to the Lords enquiry from the OU’s True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance (PUFin) is cited throughout the report and contributed to a strong set of recommendations to tackle financial exclusion.
The Lords recommend creating a Minister for Financial Inclusion with responsibility for promoting and co-ordinating progress. As the OU’s Senior Lecturer in Finance, Martin Upton is quoted in the report: ‘There should be one body… which has responsibility…If there is no coordinating, there is a risk things will slip’.
The report also backs the call from the Financial Services Consumer Panel for a new duty of care by financial firms towards their customers which the OU has said will ‘strengthen the hand of the regulator’.
The report recommends tackling lack of access to banking services through greater use of electronic identity and more innovative use of Post Offices, as called for in the OU evidence and drawing on previous research by the PUFin team (Access to Financial Services in the UK).
The Lords also highlighted the need for financial education to continue after the age of 16, quoting the OU’s Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance, Jonquil Lowe: ‘As young adults move into their adult life and start to engage with the workplace, taxation and … starting to save, they will be bombarded with offers of credit…That would seem to me an even more important point at which to have financial education’. The Lords note that the 16 to 24 age group is not well served and calls on education providers to incorporate financial education modules into their programmes of study.
The OU is a trailblazer in this area, having launched its first undergraduate personal finance module in 2006 and a spin-off free open course in 2014, which together have been studied by over 60,000 learners.
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