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Credit companies blamed for teenage debt

15 October 2012

At a Labour Conference fringe meeting 'Teenagers, Money and Safe Spending' (Manchester, Monday 1st October) delegates backed calls for financial education to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Around 40 delegates and observers attended the meeting, hosted by CitizenCard and Pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group), which was chaired by Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change MP Luciana Berger.

Tracey Bleakley, Pfeg Chief Executive, spoke about how a recent study carried out by Pfeg and the National Children's Bureau revealed that most children worry about money and 93% of parents want financial education in schools. The merits of a statutory debt management plan were discussed, and it was agreed to use the opportunity of the Curriculum Review to press for compulsory financial education in schools, a move supported by the 226 MPs who are members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Personal Finance Education.

Jaine Chisholm Caunt, Secretary-General of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (and a Board member of CitizenCard) told the audience that the subject was close to her heart thanks to 15 years' experience working as a money adviser with Citizens Advice. Jaine explained that the Visa Prepaid CitizenCard was a real step forward in offering 'safe spending' because adult merchant codes had been barred from under-18 cards, and (uniquely amongst financial products in the UK) the 16-digit card number differentiated adults from children so that websites could determine if the cardholder was an adult from the card number alone.

Kevin Brennan MP, Shadow Education Minister spoke about how the current financial climate is having a negative effect on this country's young people. He expressed concern that more and more young people are succumbing to the pressures of consumerism and debt, citing the dropout rate from third level education due to financial pressure. Brennan said that the curriculum had to include guidance on finance, life, health and employment but "there is no sign that the current government will address this".

Tony Cunningham MP, Shadow International Development Minister, said that financial advertising is appealing to young people who may use borrowing as a quick fix method for financial difficulties. He also agreed that financial education should become compulsory in schools to battle increasing levels of debt in young people, something that should have started happening a long time ago.

Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Families criticized credit companies that target disadvantaged young people and urgent action was needed to help the hundreds of young people who are crippled with debt. Lisa also added that peer pressure and lack of financial education are major factors in debt among the young and that the state had a duty to act. Citing her experience working at Centrepoint, she added that children in care were the most vulnerable and needed particular help. She said the EMA was a real help in getting young people to budget for the first time, and Labour had bitterly opposed its abolition.

CitizenCard's Chief Executive, Andrew Chevis reinforced the fact that the Visa Prepaid CitizenCard is not a credit card and cardholders cannot get into debt as they can only spend what is preloaded onto the card. Jaine Chisholm Caunt added that a lot of children do not see a link between money and employment, adding that a lot of children do not know where their parent's money actually comes from and parents must also play their part in providing financial education to children.

Luciana Berger closed the meeting by commenting that the introduction of Universal Credit will make the issue of financial education even more critical as some of the most vulnerable families will have to learn monthly budgeting for the first time.

Conservative Party Conference:

12:45-13:45 Monday 8th October, Bank Restaurant, 4 Brindley Place, Birmingham B1 2JB. Chaired by Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew. Lunch and drinks.

Scottish National Party Conference:

17:30-18:30 Friday 19th October, Murray Room, Salutation Hotel, Perth PH2 8PH. Chaired by Christine Grahame MSP, convenor of Scottish Parliament Justice Ctte. Fish supper and drinks.

Admission to the meetings is free and attendees can avail of a free Visa Prepaid CitizenCard. If you wish to attend please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.