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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


ENGELBRECHT, L.K.. An approach to financial vulnerability reduction: Financial literacy education within a social development paradigm. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.2, pp.201-218. ISSN 2224-7912.

A significant number of people in South Africa who are accommodated within the social welfare system, display a lack of understanding of financial matters and are therefore financially vulnerable. In South Africa, social welfare policy initiatives are directed by the White Paper for Social Welfare and are primarily focussed on the socio-economic needs of all South Africans, specifically those of the previously disadvantaged and poor people of the country. This White Paper which supplies a macro-policy framework for poverty alleviation, is based on social development theories, combining social and economic objectives. Practitioners of social development however, deal with financially vulnerable people on a daily basis, and within the social development paradigm, must attempt to set into operation the development goals on the micro-practice level. This matter informs the objective of this article, namely to construct an approach to financial vulnerability reduction within a social development paradigm. This could make a contribution to the country's strategy against poverty. In this article the South African social development paradigm will be placed in its proper context, after which financial vulnerability and financial literacy education will be explored and described and also examined as a practice reality by means of an instrumental qualitative case study. Participants in the case study consisted of ten registered social workers employed at an established non-government organisation (NGO). Purposive non-probability sampling was used to select the participants, as these social development practitioners could offer expert opinions on the subject. This particular NGO delivers social development services in several provinces and like other NGOs should adhere to the financial policy of the Department of Social Development. The aim of the case study was to explore how development practitioners perceive and experience the financial vulnerability of their service users (clients) within a social development paradigm as practice reality in South Africa. This goal was attained through the explorative and descriptive nature of the study. Semi-structured interviews were used as research instrument in order to elicit comments most effectively from the participants. Themes arising from the comments were processed and presented in synthesised form in the article, based on and integrated with the literature study, to ensure validity through triangulation. The case study was thus directed towards reaching the goal as set out in the article, as the findings are to be construed as key elements of financial literacy education as an approach to reduce financial vulnerability within the local social development paradigm. The findings show that financial vulnerability reduction by means of financial literacy education is an appropriate micro-practice approach by social development practitioners to attain social development goals within the context of the organisation. This approach therefore provides social development practitioners with a definite, concrete role within the social development paradigm, as they are structurally positioned to deliver financial education to financially vulnerable service users. This can lay the foundation for successful income-generating projects to be implemented. This approach means that income-generating projects are initially of secondary importance, as the development practitioners are primarily focussed on enhancing financial literacy as a life skill in the community. Traditionally this constitutes a major part of the intervention by social service professionals. The fundamental premise of this approach is that people's financial vulnerability could be reduced, enabling them to manage looming financial risks. Within the context of this study, financially vulnerable people refer to those users of social welfare services who have little or no continuous financial support, and do not have at their disposal the necessary resources to survive in times of financial distress. Financial vulnerability is viewed here not only from a monetary perspective, but also in terms of people's limited capabilities. People are rendered vulnerable when they are unable to manage their money, which implies a lack of financial literacy, and usually manifests in unmanageable debt. Financially illiterate people are therefore in dire need of a set of indispensable life skills to survive in a globalising environment. These life skills are presented as part of an integrated generic social intervention process, implemented on individual, group and community level through financial literacy education. Within a social development paradigm, financial literacy education is thus a micro-practice approach based on definite points of departure and perspectives in accordance with adult education principles. This education embraces the recognition and continuous, life-long learning of a set of multi-dimensional situation-relevant person-centred life skills within an indigenous cultural context, and is focussed on people's ability to manage their available funds. Partnerships are established between development practitioners and financial institutions, to serve as intervention resource for the presentation of financial literacy programmes. Development practitioners act as a bridge for dialogue between education programmes and vulnerable people and also ensure that financial literacy education programmes assume an appropriate position on a continuum of product marketing and general life skills. Financial education programmes aim to be preventative. The skills of financially vulnerable people are developed towards effective decision-making and having informed opinions about the use and management of money. Accordingly, and with due regard to the specific needs of financially vulnerable people, the content of education programmes is focussed on competencies relating to knowledge, values and skills in respect of financial concepts, financial self-discipline and how to avoid financial exploitation and risks. Acquisition of these values, knowledge and skills, results in a reduction in financial vulnerability, enabling people to participate with confidence in the mainstream economy. This outcome could pave the way for further programmes aimed at income generation, serve as basis for people's migration to the mainstream economy and could be reciprocally transposed to other life spheres. In this way economic and human development are integrated within a social intervention context and placed within reach of social development practitioners to facilitate. Role players should take cognizance of this.

Keywords : Financial vulnerability; poverty; financial literacy; financial literacy education; intervention programmes; practice approach; social development paradigm; welfare policy; social development practitioner; social work; non government organisation; case study; income generation; social security; economic and human development.

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