Getting in control of your finances through digital
SmartLyte, one of Good Things Foundation’s ‘Nobody in The Dark’ programme community partners, tell us how they’ve been supporting vulnerable people to improve their financial literacy through digital skills training.
SmartLyte is one of Good Things Foundation’s Community Partners based in Birmingham. SmartLyte has been taking part in the Nobody in The Dark programme, supporting vulnerable people to improve their financial literacy through digital skills training.
Based in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city, SmartLyte works with people who have very low level literacy skills. In turn, many people they support struggle with digital skills and financial literacy and many therefore live in poverty, struggling to pay bills and afford day to day expenses. Living in fear of another overdue bill arriving, daily essentials are seen as luxuries. The long history of intergenerational deprivation in this area means that many children grow up viewing a lack of achievement and social mobility as normal, and they struggle to see a way out of their circumstances.
The Nobody in the Dark project came at the perfect time for SmartLyte after the pandemic hit families in this area hard, exacerbating already existing challenges. Director, Hafsha, says:
The impact of Covid was paralysing, preventing families from moving forward. The Nobody in the Dark programme allowed SmartLyte to help these people gradually rebuild their lives, passing on the essential digital skills which would allow them to change their circumstances.
Through a blended delivery approach where they ran both online and face-to-face classes, SmartLyte supported people to improve their digital and financial literacy, holding short money management sessions that allowed them to identify the main areas of financial and digital literacy that people were struggling with. SmartLyte could then tailor their future sessions to these areas and help people to overcome their challenges.
SmartLyte’s community champions’ valuable language skills ensured that learners completely understood and benefitted from the sessions. Thanks to the Nobody in The Dark programme and SmartLyte’s commitment to helping people overcome these financial obstacles, learners who took part in the programme have been able to improve their digital skills and financial knowledge significantly, in turn giving them peace of mind and improved physical and mental health. Armed with these invaluable new skills, members of the centre are now able to rewrite their narratives, taking control over their lives and finances.
Amal, a young mother with four children, has been improving her digital and English language skills with support from SmartLyte, one of Good Things Foundation’s Community Partners taking part in the Nobody in the Dark project.
Amal left war and poverty in Yemen in pursuit of a new life in the UK. Despite spending the last 20 years here, when she joined the centre recently, Amal spoke very little English and had only picked up a few words. She and her children were experiencing poverty every day – the family were frequently visited by bailiffs, making day to day life extremely stressful. They all lived in constant fear of the unwelcome visits.
With two older children and two in primary school, Amal was desperate to change her life. She wanted to make better financial decisions and life choices in the hope that her children could one day escape a life of poverty and deprivation. Amal wanted to take control of her own finances and better understand her own financial situation.
Determined to change her family’s circumstances, Amal began attending SmartLyte classes in English, financial literacy and digital skills. Amal says:
I grew in confidence and independence and found I could share my new skills with my children. The classes helped me to understand the loans I was paying every month, the benefits I was entitled to and how to check my bank statements online.
But when the pandemic hit, life for Amal and her family took a step backwards. The bailiff visits increased, and Amal’s relationship broke down. Amal’s husband took out another loan that they could not repay and was using up their benefits rapidly. The enhanced digital and financial skills Amal had developed enabled her to find the courage to move out of her home and into a one room hostel with her three youngest children.
This was a challenging time for the whole family, Amal’s daughter developed anxiety and the whole family were struggling every day. Despite this hardship, Amal continued to boost her digital and financial knowledge, attending SmartLyte classes when the centre reopened, allowing her to build on the skills she had learnt previously.
The digital skills Amal has gained from the classes and quizzes have allowed her to access essential benefits and support, including free school meal vouchers and uniform grants. Amal has learnt how to register for council housing and access her children’s school portals. She has also been able to book her children’s health appointments online. Amal’s new skills have also had a positive impact on her children’s lives, and she was able to support her daughter through her mental health issues.
With her new digital skills and financial awareness, Amal was able to notice when her husband had been accessing her bank account online, something she would not have known how to do before attending SmartLyte. Amal addressed this issue with her bank and was able to take ownership over her account.
I am excited to learn more about financial skills for myself and my children, in the hope of one day becoming fully financially independent.
After a long wait, Amal got taken off the list for council housing but was able to register again herself, thanks to her new skills. Amal and her children have now been allocated a council house that they will be moving into shortly.
Amal continues to seek new opportunities to improve her and her children’s lives.
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