Schoolchildren who are taught the fundamentals of money management are far less likely to run into debt as adults, says the founder of owner of one of the UK’s largest payday lending companies.
Ashley Griffiths, chief executive of Tide U Over of Cardiff, said that basic economics should become an integral part of the curriculum in secondary schools so that youngsters grew up with an understanding of the way money works.
“When I listen to calls made by our customers it is quite clear that many of them have no real understanding about budgeting or the value of money – that, for example, you simply cannot buy milk and biscuits costing £2 if you only have £1.90”, he said.
“But if these simple economics were taught to youngsters at school, they would be far less likely to run up debts – with all the real mental stress that money problems so often involve – when they start work and have a family.”
Mr Griffiths, a former building construction company manager, started Tide U Over three years ago, after witnessing the growing number of building site workers who, as a result of the 2008 credit crunch, borrowed money from unscrupulous and unlicensed loan sharks.
“I realised that there a was a need to establish a responsible, ethical lending company and was fortunate in that my plan attracted an investor and over the years the company has gone from strength to strength,” he added.
He said that the new consumer credit regulations for short-term and payday lenders imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority in April 2014 had provided an important safety-net for borrowers but, because of the strict requirement to ensure that all clients could afford to make the repayment, he felt that there was now a risk that many people would still resort to loan sharks.
“The regulatory procedure for credit checks is a cold and impersonal process that does not always take account of an individual’s requirements or their changing circumstances over time. Our overriding principle is simply that responsible lending goes hand in hand with responsible borrowing” he added.
To focus attention on the links between debt and mental health, Tide U Over is on July 11 to host a one-day training seminar to be delivered by the Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors (CAMIAD) at the offices of the company’s accountants, Bloomfield and Alexander in Cardiff.
It will be officially opened by Andrew Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives and member of the National Assembly of Wales since 2007.
Attendees will include delegates from SSE plc, the former Scottish and Southern energy supply company, and other local firms who have direct contacts with people who may be suffering mental stress because of debt.
The dedicated course, which will be delivered by CAMIAD’s Lead Trainer Nigel Crompton, a senior mental health nurse, is designed to equip professionals who have direct contact with individuals in debt with the skills to recognise if they have any underlying mental health issued and how to signpost them on for help, counselling or treatment.
As such, one of CAMIAD’s principal aims is to help reduce the growing number of debt-related suicides and mental health breakdowns caused by the stress and worry of money problems. The course to be delivered in Cardiff has been formulated specifically to train frontline personnel in payday loan companies who may have to deal with vulnerable, at-risk customers.
Nigel Crompton, who has specialist expertise in suicide prevention, said: “During debt counselling, suicide is often the ‘elephant in the room’ but professionals are invariably wary about raising the issue with their clients.
“Our experience has shown, however, that most people will experience a great sense of relief if they are feeling suicidal and are asked about it in the right way. That is why it’s so important that professionals are trained to be aware of these issues and know how to deal with them – it can save lives”.
“For companies undertaking this training, it contributes greatly to their ability to show evidence of good practice and that they are proactive in complying with the regulations but also that being aware of mental health issues among clients can actually be good business sense”
He said that by breaking the “negative spiral” of debt and mental health problems, it made it much more likely that creditors would achieve their commercial objectives – that debtors would simply be better able to pay their debts.
Ashley Griffiths that that by assessing the use of the slide-bar loan calculator of his company’s website it was possible to observe the broad spectrum of potential loan applications from “19-year-olds looking to borrow the maximum for a night out drinking with their mates at the weekend without any consideration of how they would repay it” to “middle-aged men who after lunch on a Sunday checked carefully and responsibly to see how much they afford to borrow”.
“Debt can unquestionably cause people to suffer a great deal of stress but I would contend that much of it could be avoided if children were taught the basic principles of economics during their schooldays,” he said.
Anyone interested in attending the course or wanting further details should contact Peter Harris, Co-founder of CAMIAD, on 01270 753648 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The course includes a buffet lunch and refreshments.