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Financial wellbeing in North East England

As England’s industrial heart, the North East has an economic heritage to be proud of. These days, the region is central to many UK industries – including chemical, digital, manufacturing and energy – yet it faces serious financial wellbeing challenges that can impact the local economy, says the area’s partnerships manager, Karleen Dowden.

 

The North East of England, like many other regions, faces financial wellbeing challenges which are vulnerable to exacerbation by unexpected events, such as COVID–19. These challenges include high levels of:

  • Unemployment: the highest in the UK as at the three months ending October 2020 (Office For National Statistics, 2020)
  • Child poverty: the North East has the highest percentage of pupils in England receiving free school meals at both primary and secondary age (North East Child Poverty Commission, 2020)
  • Households living with poverty or financial vulnerability: 71% of children in the North East were living in families with little or no savings to shield them from economic shocks (Action For Children report April 2020)
  • Low levels of net annual income and educational attainment: 16.8% of 16-24 year-olds are not in education, employment or training (Department for Education Not in Education or Training Statistics Brief March 2020)

Official estimates show that almost a quarter of a million people in the North East were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Over half of these were employed in the service industry or manufacturing.

Want to help employees improve their financial wellness, and reach your business KPIs by doing so? Get in touch with Money and Pensions Service. We have been set up by the government to offer free, impartial money and pensions guidance.

Why financial education is important

There is persistent economic and social exclusion in large parts of the North East, with significantly lower levels of employment of working-age people compared to England’s average. Many jobs that are generated are low paid and insecure. Large rural areas are not supported by public transport, which limits feasible employment opportunities and access to key services and support.

All of this impacts the financial wellbeing of North East workers and residents, which in turn affects the local economy as well as the region’s employers. It’s estimated that businesses across the UK are seeing an average of 2.5 days of absence per employee per year because of financial stress. This adds up to an annual loss of around £15 billion (Neyber, 2019).

One particular area of concern in the North East is the lack of savings among households. If an unexpected income shock occurs, more people will be pushed into borrowing money to meet their basic needs. This means individuals must have access to guidance on borrowing safely.

Employers will be vital in facilitating this access. Integrating financial education into the workplace will not only improve the overall wellbeing of employees, but also the efficiency and output of organisations, as well as the wider economy.

Support your employees and customers guides to manage money during COVID–19 and money on our Coronavirus Hub.

While not the only factor to problems we face in the North East, a lack of financial literacy has undoubtedly worsened these downward economic trends in the region. But knowing where to start can be tricky. That’s why it’s worth reaching out to MaPS to help your colleagues and community manage their personal finances confidently. Contact me today to find out how we can offer bespoke support to your business and employees.

Want to help employees manage their finances better? Use our syndicated guides, tools and calculators for free.

Free service for financial education

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) was established by the government to power-up financial education in every region and country in the UK. We offer a wide array of free support to individuals and businesses.

As MaPS’s regional partnerships manager for the North East, my sole focus is on improving financial literacy and financial wellbeing in the region through developing partnerships with a wide range of organisations committed to supporting the financial wellbeing of their employees and customers. Only through working collaboratively will we achieve the national goals set out in the UK strategy for financial wellbeing. There are no easy answers to the challenges facing the North East, but supporting employees in making smarter choices about saving, borrowing and pensions is a good place to start and will benefit our local businesses and economy. That’s what I’m here to help with.

MaPS offers your organisation:

Contact Karleen

 

Karleen lives in Northumberland and has experience working in partnership with a wide range of public, private and third sector stakeholders, to develop collaborative approaches to addressing common aims. To find out how she can help your organisation and employees when it comes to financial wellbeing, contact her on karleen.dowden@maps.org.uk.

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