The programme teaching Newham's young care leavers how to manage their money
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 November 2019
Young care leavers in the borough are learning how to live independently through an innovative programme about managing money.
London financial education charity MyBnk project The Money House aims to teach young people everything they need to know to survive in their first home - and help prevent youth homelessness in the process.
It's open to anyone in the borough aged 16-25 and the council has made it mandatory for all care leavers moving into social housing.
The council says the number of care leavers finding themselves in financial difficulty after moving into their own accommodation has plummeted since the project began.
Topics covered by the five-day course include budgeting, income and employability; benefits and banking; debt, borrowing and contracts; living beyond today; as well as common scams and money muling.
Some modules have been developed with advice from banks, the police and other agencies about current issues relevant to young people.
Josh Nicholas, 22, who attended the programme four months ago, said The Money House helped him to understand finances and the importance of good decision making.
"The Money House taught us about savings, investing money and budgeting - and why you should do these things," he said.
"It was really helpful for me because in life, if I just get the money and spend it on sweets, then I won't be able to be independent and to do things that everyone else can.
"I feel like that was part of the teaching as well: some people have more money, some people have less, but it doesn't matter if you get less, you should have access to the same equal opportunities. But you have to make the right decisions with your money.
"The programme was a way of understanding how it all works and how you should budget for your life as well as spending because, for me, budgeting has a big influence on how we live."
Josh, who says he has lived independently since the age of 11, said the programme had helped him to live better and work towards achieving his goals.
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"It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to own my own music company, but I never knew how I was going to do that," he said.
"I always had the ideas but I never actually learned to be disciplined."
He added: "The teachers had very different ways of teaching each individual person in the class, who had different ways of learning and understanding, so that everyone was comfortable."
So far, 317 care leavers in the borough have gone through the programme, including 160 within the first year and 157 to date this year.
The council's leaving care service manager Steve Chaplin said feedback from young people had been invariably positive, with many saying they wish they'd known what they'd learnt sooner.
"One thing we've really noticed is the number of young people who move into their own accommodation and have problems financially has massively decreased," Mr Chaplin said.
"That, for us, is such an important change because our role as a leaving care service is to help young people move into the community, become independent and live positive lives.
"It allows us to feel they're moving forward but in a way that they've got the skills, the knowledge and understanding of what they need to do to avoid some of those horrible situations that young people get themselves into."
Newham is one of three boroughs where MyBnk has sites for The Money House programme, which isn't residential but is based in a real flat similar to one they might soon live in.
MyBnk can be flexible with the delivery of the course as required, including accommodating one-to-one sessions and smaller groups, depending on the needs of participants.
Head of education for young adults Nick Smith-Patel said they aim to make information useful, relevant and timely.
"We find that when you give young people all the information they need, they tend to make savvier choices," he said.
"It's when they have a bit of bad information, or no information, those negative choices start to come out."