How National Numeracy Day can help tackle problem debt

According to the National Numeracy Day campaign, around half the UK’s adults have poor numeracy skills. Yet evidence suggests becoming a “numbers person” can help you save money and make money – and it’s never too late to learn. As StepChange Debt Charity is contacted by over 2000 new clients a day, that implies that around 1000 StepChange clients every day could benefit from numeracy skills to help them as they seek to manage their debt problems.

To mark National Numeracy Day, today [15 May] StepChange Debt Charity is for the second year a Numeracy Day Champion. The charity is hosting a “Budgeting Special” Facebook Live event from 12:30pm onwards [15 May], to which questions can be submitted either in advance, via the charity’s Facebook page, or in real time. The charity’s website landing page is also being given over for the day on 15 May to promoting numeracy, and encouraging visitors and clients to take The National Numeracy Challenge.

National Numeracy Day was launched in 2018, with the inaugural campaign seeing over 100 UK organisations drive 25,000 people to start their journey towards improved numeracy – and StepChange wants to help the campaign beat that number this year. Evidence suggests improved numeracy leads to greater financial capability, and those with lower numeracy levels may struggle to select the cheapest loans, choose the most appropriate savings products, and make an effective budget.

StepChange’s Chair, John Griffith-Jones, is also vice-chair of the National Numeracy, the charity behind National Numeracy Day, and blogs today on how the two roles fit together, and why he feels passionately about the links between numeracy and being comfortable with financial matters. He writes:

“If we could magically bestow numerical skill upon each and every person in the UK, as wonderful as that may be, it would not single-handedly tackle the issue of problem debt. But it certainly would help. On a basic level, numeracy is key in creating a budget. Budget creation is often the first step towards getting one’s finances under control. For individuals at risk of falling into problem debt, it would potentially allow for them to identify issues earlier, and thus avoid an unmanageable situation.”

With 18.5 million working age adults with low or poor numeracy, StepChange is also joining other organisations in calling on Britain’s employers to help their employees to improve their number confidence. Low levels of numeracy skills are estimated to cost the UK economy over £20 billion a year.

Phil Andrew, CEO of StepChange, said:

“This National Numeracy Day, StepChange is proud once again to be a National Numeracy Day Champion. As an employer, I recognise that excellent numeracy is a key skill that we can help to encourage. On a day to day basis, our staff use their numeracy skills to help others with their financial problems, so we are no strangers to the potential becoming a ‘numbers person’ can unlock.

“Improving the nation’s numeracy will not of itself resolve the country’s growing debt issues, but encouraging self-improvement on numeracy can only help with budgeting, and empowering more people to take advantage of cheaper goods and services by being able to compare their true cost effectively.”