PFG’s Purpose - putting people on a path to a better everyday life - is as much about creating responsible products and services to aid financial inclusion as it is making sure young people have access to opportunities that help them become socially mobile.
When we refer to social mobility and the idea of helping people be more socially mobile, we’re talking about giving them more chances to reach their full potential and work towards a better life, regardless of their background. You would hope everyone in the UK has access to these opportunities, but this is unfortunately not the case. The statistics show the UK has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world, with some areas experiencing higher levels of social disadvantage than others.
There are many factors that contribute to someone’s degree of social mobility, but one of the most significant is education. If a child or adult receives a good education, their chances of becoming upwardly mobile substantially improve. Even so, the remaining factors, many of which are beyond an individual’s control, can still present barriers to social mobility; the stigma attached to where they live or happened to be born, for example. That said, a solid education still opens doors and reveals a wider world beyond the one our parents may have experienced; a world that is attainable through learning, energy and focus.
The S in ESG
At PFG, we focus the social element of our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme around supporting financial inclusion and social mobility. We do this because many of our customers and the communities they live in are likely to have experienced barriers to social mobility in their lives. Our work is designed to support them and their families in overcoming such barriers. With our help, we hope to broaden their range and access to better life opportunities, which could introduce both immediate and generational benefits for individuals, families and communities.
Our programme is becoming increasingly relevant for young people and their communities. The Prince’s Trust NatWest Youth Index for 2022 revealed the way young people feel about their lives has decreased again; a decrease that brings it to the lowest level seen across the 13-year study. This year, the study showed:
- One-in-five young people think they will fail in life, with the proportion rising to a third among those who are NEET (Not Engaged in Employment or Training);
- Almost half of young people have reported experiencing mental health problems;
- Nearly a quarter of young people from poorer backgrounds (21%) and NEET (25%) think their life will amount to nothing, no matter how hard they try.
With young people’s happiness and confidence at an all-time low, we’re committed to doing all we can in our areas of influence to support them in becoming more confident in themselves, in their literacy and numeracy abilities, and with their finances.
How our programme works
Our Social Impact Programme (SIP) centres around three core ideas:
1) Attendance, participation and inclusion
2) Creation of opportunities
3) Support and development
Attendance, participation and inclusion
Attendance is the most basic educational requirement. It’s the first rung on the ladder of opportunity, which is why we’ve continued to provide funding for School-Home Support practitioners who work with families to tackle the underlying barriers preventing children getting to school. These are children who may not have uniforms or whose parents are struggling for a variety of reasons.
In the past year, these practitioners have supported hundreds of children in areas close to our offices, contributing to an average school attendance increase of 10.9%. Children have to be present in order to learn and grow, and I’m proud that we’re able to bring more children into spaces where they can learn, develop and build confidence in themselves.
In addition to supporting access to education projects, many of our Social Impact grants are given to smaller community funds that champion social inclusion. For instance, we’ve recently supported the Dadihiye Somali Development Organisation to deliver linguistic and culturally-appropriate debt advice services to support ethnic minorities (predominantly Somali women). The beneficiaries are provided access to information and services that will help them improve their financial confidence and outlook.
Another project we recently funded - The Venturists - encourages young people facing the most challenging circumstances to take an active role in their communities. We put them in charge and empower them through project-based learning experiences to develop and deliver their ideas for social change.
Creation of opportunities
We work with the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP), a charity that brings together organisations to remove barriers and provide experiences to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We also work with universities to give students a real-life understanding of what it’s like to go to work.
In both programmes, working alongside our colleagues, students are introduced to a business environment and learn about different roles at different levels. They also develop the skills they will need to find a future role. They’re encouraged to pursue their own direction, and the programmes give them the confidence they need both to succeed in their education and move into the world of work.
We understand many people young people, particularly those in more deprived areas, will not be given opportunities to develop interview skills, take part in careers workshops or seek advice on getting a job. But the more support we can give, the more young people we can encourage to confidently take part in the world of work and put in every effort to succeed.
Support and development
Through our longstanding partnerships with National Numeracy, the National Literacy Trust and, closer to home, Leading Children, we continue to support several programmes that aim to boost the literacy and numeracy skills of young people and adults.
PFG’s funding in 2021 enabled National Numeracy to deliver its ‘Becoming a Numeracy Champion’ programme, which supported thousands of children, parents and teachers from schools in areas of need across England to develop crucial numeracy skills that can be used both at school and throughout their lives.
Through funding teacher training work with Leading Children (a Bradford-based education consultancy), we know that each year we’ve increased, on average, the KS2 SATS results of hundreds of children by a whole level, compared to pre-programme teacher expectations. These children will now have a better grasp of literacy and literature, be able to read more texts without assistance and do more independent learning. In turn, this will give them more opportunities when it comes to increasing their grades throughout their educational careers, as well as access to a wider range of jobs in the future.
PFG also has a seven-year relationship with IncomeMax, a community interest company that helps people to make the most of their income. They do this through independent advice and support to navigate the complex welfare system, helping many of our customers increase their income and improve their financial position. And today, I’m pleased to share that we’re looking at how we can expand this work and help more of our customers take control of their finances.
The scope of our community inclusion agenda is wide-ranging in terms of the projects we support, yet always focused on putting people on a path to a better everyday life.
Contributing to the business community
Creating opportunities in our communities is central to our social programme, but we also take time to reflect and consider how we might also develop our internal talent. In addition to our partnerships and community funding, we actively share our knowledge and experience at the Government-led Social Mobility Taskforce, which aims to boost socio-economic diversity at senior levels in the UK’s financial and professional services (FPS).
The taskforce’s necessity stems from the lack of socio-economic diversity in the upper levels of the FPS sector, but I remain hopeful that, through our contributions and those of other participating organisation, we can work together to make a positive impact in this space.
Our commitment to helping people progress towards better everyday lives is not only close to our hearts, it clearly links to the UN Sustainability Goal around quality education; a goal we have committed to making significant contributions to as a business.
Making an impact
I’m proud to say PFG continues to lend our knowledge and exercise our influence to benefit communities across the UK. The importance of developing the skills and overall confidence of our young people, leading them to feel financially and socially included cannot be overstated. I look forward to working with other organisations as we collectively raise awareness around our country’s socio-economic challenges, alongside discovering what else PFG might do to make further meaningful and long-lasting impacts.