Making financial inclusion a top political priority in the UK

THE FACTS

Financial exclusion remains a significant challenge for 21st century Britain which prides itself on being a global leader in financial services. 

28%

of adults or 14 million people have experienced a direct negative effect on their income due to the coronavirus pandemic (as of May 2020)

12.5 million

UK adults have little or no confidence in their ability to manage money

22%

of all adults in the UK have less than £100 in savings

1 in 5

adults would not be able to cover more than one month of living expenses if they lost their source of income

1 million

people in the UK do not have a bank account

16%

are borrowing to pay for essentials because they have run out of money

WHO WE ARE

We are an independent body of experts from financial services, businesses, the charity sector, academia and parliamentarians from all major parties.

We want a financially inclusive UK where financial services are accessible, easy to use and meet people’s needs over their lifetime, and where everyone has the skills and motivation to use them.

We provide leadership to improve the state of the nation’s financial wellbeing, championing financial inclusion as a public policy priority for public bodies, businesses, and civil society and challenge exclusion wherever it occurs.

We convene, understand and influence through assembling a coalition for change, gathering evidence, and creating and championing practical policies to achieve change.

About us

OUR LATEST STRATEGY, RESEARCH & CONSULTATION RESPONSES

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LATEST NEWS

It’s not just small businesses that are struggling financially, it’s the households that depend on them to put food on the table.

Says Liz Barclay Vice Chair of the Financial Inclusion Commission 

On the 26th November 2020 the Financial Inclusion Commission hosted a roundtable to discuss how to help small businesses around the UK deal with their financial woes and get recovery ready.

We also produced a discussion paper in September this year with debt charity The Money Advice Trust which runs Business Debtline, setting out what we felt were the main issues small businesses are encountering. In that we suggested:  

  1. Swift action with either insurance or assurance of help from Government to deal with the interruptions that they will see in the years to come. 
  2. Action to strengthen the Prompt Payment Code further, to introduce fines for persistent late payers, and to review the use of statutory interest on late payments. 
  3. Help to defer repayment of government-backed loans, where needed, without increasing their debt and more accessible, affordable credit. 
  4. A collaborative approach by the regulators, requiring the industry to guarantee access to and acceptance of cash, and provide the regulatory framework to enable effective collaboration as well as requiring payment providers to implement Request to Pay and auto-enrol customers. 
  5. Further support to ensure digital access and better digital banking and payments products which meet these needs, at costs affordable for small businesses.
  6. Support and training to help small businesses adapt to the increasing digitisation of the economy and assistance to train and upskill the workforce and contribute to job creation. 
  7. A fundamental review of how small businesses and the self-employed are taxed with a view to achieving a system which does not lead to significant costs for small businesses. 
  8. A sustainable long-term pension solution with ways of providing adequate advice and of engaging small businesses and the self-employed in planning their financial future.

At the ensuing roundtable on the 26th November Matt Hartley from the Money Advice Trust outlined just how tough small businesses are finding it financially. One of the most worrying points he raised is that small business owners have been trying to keep their businesses afloat using money that would normally be reserved for paying the household bills. As a result twice as many households had fallen behind with personal credit card payments or council tax as far back as May as were behind with business bills. 

He also pointed out that 72% of people surveyed earlier in the year said late payments were making financial problems caused by Covid-19 worse. 

Philip King, Interim Small Business Commissioner told the audience that getting a payment on time can mean the difference between being able to feed your family or not, and the implications for mental health of small business owners are horrendous. Philip has written a blog for the FIC which you can find here

We need our small businesses to survive and drive the recovery. They are the backbone of the UK economy with 5.9 million small businesses employing about 60% of the workforce pre-covid. They are the innovators and entrepreneurs who take risks and create jobs. 

Miles Celic is CEO of TheCityUK, set up 10 years ago to represent UK-based financial and related professional services. The organisation is working on an ecosystem recovery plan for cities across the UK. Miles is pushing for various support mechanisms for small businesses: “There’s no point in supporting them through the crisis only to pull the plug on them later on, because that’s hugely damaging to the companies, the people who work for them, the communities they support, and to the tax payer more broadly.”

Over the next year at the FIC we’ll continue to investigate the financial issues faced by small firms. 

In the meantime Money Advice Trust launched a new report on Tuesday 8th December called Back to business: Supporting people in self-employment to bounce back from Covid-19 which includes predictions from self-employed people about their longer term recovery from this crisis and that of their business. I have to declare an interest here. I have been an ambassador for the Money Advice Trust for years. It does remarkable work.

Business Debtline helps the people who sit behind those numbers – those in the hospitality industry whose jobs have disappeared, taxi drivers whose custom has dried up, bar owners who have lost all their trade overnight. If you know someone who needs their help find them online at https://www.businessdebtline.org/ or call 0800 197 6026. 

Philip King, Interim Small Business Commissioner, on the impact of late payments

Late payment is a scourge that has a disproportionate effect on small businesses and, according to the FSB, is responsible for the failure of approximately 50,000 small businesses a year. Cashflow is the lifeblood of businesses and, when it runs out, they fail. It’s as simple as that. When employees, a key supplier, or a landlord can’t be paid then the inevitable outcome is failure of the business unless alternative additional funds can be found, and quickly.

As the Small Business Commissioner, my team and I speak to countless businesses that are struggling to get paid by a larger customer. We intervene or signpost to help them resolve the situation and get the monies they’re owed. To date, we’ve directly recouped almost £7.5m, and more than £680k since we entered lockdown. We will also, unknowingly, have supported the collection of far more where our name has been used as a means of encouraging a business to pay.

But the impact of late payment is not just financial, it’s also emotional. I’ve talked to thousands of small businesses through lockdown on webinars and virtual forums and I’ve heard many harrowing stories from business owners: people who are living their passion and dream through running a business but who can be incredibly vulnerable.

As a result of worrying whether a payment is going to arrive or not, they suffer from mental health issues which can cause relationship difficulties, breakdowns, sleeplessness, mood swings and anxiety. Their employees are often personal long-standing friends and they feel a responsibility towards them. At the same time, they are worried about clothing and feeding their own families and know that they will have to make difficult decisions. They’re often caught between a rock and a hard place and frequently feel they have nowhere to turn for help or meaningful advice.

And not every small business owner is tech-savvy. The move to technological solutions is great for some of us but makes others feel excluded and even more vulnerable. That is why the work of the Financial Inclusion Commission (FIC) is so important and why the SBC is eager to collaborate with it. The SBC can help small businesses get paid, and the FIC wants to make sure that financial services are accessible to all, and that everyone has the skills and motivation needed to use them.

If, together, we can help ease the cashflow pressures for small businesses and ensure people can access the services that most of us take for granted, it will be a noble partnership. 

The Financial Inclusion Commission is delighted that Philip will be speaking at our Small Business Roundtable event on Thursday 26 November.

Stiffening the backbone of the UK economy: building back sustainable, resilient small businesses post-Covid

In September, the Financial Inclusion Commission launched a discussion paper focusing on the issues faced by small businesses, in collaboration with Business Debtline. We are delighted to be hosting a roundtable event on Thursday 26 November at 10:30 via Zoom, based on the contents of this paper, titled ‘Stiffening the backbone of the UK economy: building back sustainable, resilient small businesses post-Covid.’

Small businesses have been severely impacted by the crisis and research suggests that as of June, 80% of SME’s had seen a negative impact on their revenue from Covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic has served to accelerate the problems faced by small businesses: obtaining insurance for income continuity; accessing affordable credit; digital access; payment deferrals. We believe that intervention is needed to assist this hugely important sector of the UK economy to recover, innovate, create jobs and employment, and rebuild in a financially resilient way for the future.

We are excited to have Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Employment Minister and a member of the Financial Inclusion Commission, chairing the event. We have some fantastic speakers lined up including;

  • Liz Barclay, Commissioner at the Financial Inclusion Commission
  • Philip King, Interim Small Business Commissioner
  • Matt Hartley, Head of Public Affairs at Money Advice Trust
  • Miles Celic, CEO at The City UK

If you are interested in attending the event please do get in touch through our email commission@UKFinclusion.org.uk

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